Open Thread 148.5

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881 Responses to Open Thread 148.5

  1. Clutzy says:

    Star Trek fans:

    Why is it that the military are also the “explorers”? I’ve seen most of OG and TNG and Voyager, but no answer has ever emerged for me.

    This seems like a novel setup based on Earth history.

    • 205guy says:

      Unlurking to reply to an old comment: I always thought the series was inspired by the 3 voyages of James Cook, captain in the British Royal Navy, between 1768 and 1779, 3 years each. He “discovered” and mapped a lot of the South Pacific, meeting many cultures and peoples in far-flung islands in a vast ocean. The personality fits too, Captain Cook also seemed like an intrepid explorer, level-headed and fair, not motivated by riches or fame. James Kirk even sounds a lot like James Cook.

      But the question then becomes why did the British Navy pay for the expeditions? I can think of 3 reasons: unexplored lands to be claimed for the crown (specifically Terra Australis), navigational science (transit of Venus), and charting. These don’t really figure in the TV show, but then again, Captain Cook’s interaction with other cultures and adventures are what are best remembered–as well as what got him killed.

      Private expeditions of discovery become more the norm once the only unexplored areas left were known to be non-strategic (the poles, jungles, and peaks).

  2. Plumber says:

    This New York Times piece has too much gold to not share here (and I absolutely invite comments on it):

    Silicon Valley Leaders’ Plea to Democrats: Anyone but Sanders

    Their tech employees are a different story.

    SAN FRANCISCO — The Silicon Valley venture capitalist Keith Rabois, onstage in January at a tech conference, said his first choice for president was a Democrat, Pete Buttigieg.

    And, sure, it would be a close call for Joseph R. Biden Jr. over President Trump. But Bernie Sanders?

    At that, Mr. Rabois, who has been a top executive at or invested in LinkedIn, Square, Yelp and PayPal, balked. Speaking to the crowd, he drew the line at democratic socialism. (Mr. Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday night.)

    “I would certainly vote for Trump over Sanders,” Mr. Rabois declared.

    When it comes to the 2020 Democratic primaries, with California poised to allocate hundreds of delegates this week on Super Tuesday, many tech leaders in Silicon Valley have a plea: Anyone but Sanders.

    From venture capitalists to chief executives, the tech elite are favoring moderates like Mr. Buttigieg and Michael R. Bloomberg. And with Mr. Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, leading the field in California and looking like the front-runner for the nomination, the tone among the leadership is growing more urgent. Few tech executives want to end up stuck choosing between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, tech company workers are gathering en masse for Mr. Sanders.

    While Silicon Valley has long leaned blue, the chasm between centrist Democrats and an animated left wing has created uncertainty. And now two other things are happening. California Republicans see an opportunity. And a new moderate party in the state — the Common Sense Party — is rising.

    “I’m trying to balance what socialism means versus four more years of Trump, and honestly it feels like which is the worse of two evils?” said Venky Ganesan, a partner at the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures, whose disaffection with the presidential field has led him toward the Common Sense Party.

    He said the vast majority of his venture capital industry colleagues had the same dilemma. “Eighty percent are thinking the same thing, but many do not speak out,” Mr. Ganesan said.

    It is not a huge surprise that the big winners of the tech boom would be wary of Mr. Sanders and his rival Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, who have both taunted Silicon Valley’s elite. But the technorati are training their animus on Mr. Sanders as he has surged in the early states that have voted.

    Mr. Sanders has said broadly that “billionaires should not exist” — and in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of billionaires. He has also called for Google to be split up and criticized it for being anti-worker. He has told Apple that it does not pay enough in taxes, and he has tapped Amazon employees to appear in a video criticizing the company’s environmental record.

    Mr. Sanders also wants to raise the corporate tax to 35 percent. And in perhaps his most aggressive attack on the tech industry, he has proposed earlier taxation on stock options, the equity that has fueled the wealth of many in Silicon Valley.

    “If your goal was to destroy the Silicon Valley ecosystem of creating new companies, this would be an effective way to do it,” Adam Nash, a tech investor and former executive at Dropbox, wrote on Twitter last week, referring to Mr. Sanders’s stock options proposal.

    Ramesh Srinivasan, who is part of Mr. Sanders’s campaign and is focused on tech issues, said the senator was “not the foe of tech entrepreneurs.” He said that the policies would encourage job growth and support small businesses and that the campaign was about “just restoring balance.”

    But Silicon Valley’s leadership suspects a coming war.

    Among the donors to Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign in the last year were Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix; Ben Silbermann, the chief executive of Pinterest; Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn; and John Doerr, a prominent venture capitalist, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Mr. Hoffman also donated to Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. And Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, donated to Mr. Biden.

    Not only are Silicon Valley’s leaders giving money to Mr. Sanders’s competitors, they are lending their muscle to the campaigns.

    Mr. Buttigieg’s national investment chair was Swati Mylavarapu, a former partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The Bloomberg campaign’s digital ad firm, Hawkfish, is being run by a former chief marketing officer of Facebook, Gary Briggs.

    Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive who is now a venture capitalist, said he would like to see Mr. Bloomberg at the top of the ticket, paired with Ms. Klobuchar or Ms. Warren.

    “Bernie is validation of an important wing in the party, but at the top of the ticket he would probably be McGovern 2.0 and Trump will win in a landslide,” he said, referring to the liberal 1972 Democratic nominee, George McGovern.

    How Silicon Valley votes matters because it leans overwhelmingly Democratic and there is a tremendous amount of capital. What is striking about this primary cycle is the schism between the people who run the companies and their workers.

    Consider that employees of Alphabet gave $499,309 to Mr. Sanders for the 2020 cycle, his second-largest total donations from one employer after University of California employees, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, Mr. Buttigieg’s 2020 run had raised $294,860 from Alphabet employees.

    Luis Zamora, a co-president of the San Francisco Young Democrats, described the situation in the tech community and why industry leadership might be wary of a Sanders presidency. “There’s a massive split between leadership and rank and file,” he said. “Bernie wants employees to be able to take over some of the ownership of the company, and that’s not going to fly.”

    A party for a moderate party
    For a group of California technologists dismayed by what they see as the populist turn of both national parties, the solution — albeit only a statewide one — is to ditch the two-party system altogether.

    On a cool evening in Palo Alto, at the Stanford University Faculty Club in September, those technologists and activists launched the Common Sense Party.

    It was a response, they said, to what they call the one-party monopoly in the state. They hoped to carve out Democrats who feel isolated from their party’s leftward lurch.

    “One party is the puppet of the public unions and wants government to run everything, and the other party is the puppet of the religious autocrats who want us all to act in a certain manner,” said Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and a Common Sense supporter. “No party is supporting a moderate agenda of someone who wants freedom to prosper and freedom to act.”

    The Faculty Club is a low-slung building, popular for weddings on the manicured Stanford campus.

    “Many C.E.O.s are a little off-put by some of the current crop of candidates for president,” said Julie Meier Wright, one of the Common Sense Party organizers and formerly California’s first secretary of trade and commerce.

    Common Sense has close to 20,000 signatures. To qualify as a new party on the ballot, they hope to get 67,000 by the summer.

    California Republicans see a rare opportunity
    Republicans see a different way through this morass — turning the disaffected moderates into full-fledged members of the G.O.P.

    “California Democrats just really haven’t been good friends to Silicon Valley,” said Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party.

    For a long time, she said, many local conservatives felt despondent about the state’s politics. Now they find themselves surprisingly optimistic.

    The state party raised more money online in 2019 than it did in 2017 and 2018 combined, rising from a few thousand dollars a month in 2018 to tens of thousands of dollars a month in 2019, Ms. Millan Patterson said.

    A rally in January in Sacramento against A.B. 5, which put strong regulations on freelancers.
    A rally in January in Sacramento against A.B. 5, which put strong regulations on freelancers. Credit… Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
    “Darkness has turned into hope,” she said.

    Republicans are making inroads in the tech world, Ms. Millan Patterson added. She cited state laws like A.B. 5, which went into effect on Jan. 1 and put strong regulations on freelancers, as another reason Republicans are gathering momentum. The goal behind the legislation was to push employers to hire full-time workers instead of contractors, but many freelancers have lost work.

    Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist, has long been the tech industry’s dissident Republican voice. He spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention to support Mr. Trump, but few tech executives held high-profile fund-raisers for the president in the last election cycle.

    That may be changing. In February, Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chief executive, hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump in Palm Springs, Calif. Some Oracle employees wrote a petition, which garnered nearly 10,000 signatures online, asking Mr. Ellison to cancel the event. When he did not, about 300 walked out of the office or logged off from work, a protest organized by the Oracle group Employees for Ethics.

    Tech workers gather for Sanders
    Some tech employees are getting ready to be at odds with their bosses. In a crowded piano bar in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood recently, a few dozen young Democrats gathered to watch the candidates debate. Organizers tried to think if anyone in the room that night or in their group more broadly supported the two tech leader favorites at the time, Mr. Buttigieg or Mr. Bloomberg. It was hard.

    “I’m hard pressed to even think of a young person who I know who is supporting one of those,” said Zhihan Zou, 25, executive director of the San Francisco Democratic Party. “I’m struggling seriously.”

    “I know — me, too,” said Adam Miller, 28, who recently left a job at LinkedIn to run a start-up to sell tech tools to political campaigns. “Can’t think of one.”

    The tech workers cited a geographic divide: Many employees live in San Francisco, while industry leaders tend to live in extremely wealthy enclaves like Los Gatos and Atherton, where homes often have gates and long driveways.

    “They’re physically removed,” Mr. Zou said of the bosses.

    Alek Chakroff, 35, a user-experience researcher at Google, said it came down to who has the most to lose from a wealth tax, which both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren support.

    He brought up Alphabet’s top boss, Sundar Pichai. He does not know how Mr. Pichai plans to vote, but guessed it would not be Mr. Sanders.

    “How much stock did Sundar just sell? $500 million?” he said.

    The group said they were excited about Mr. Sanders’s odds for winning the majority of California’s delegates on Tuesday.

    Mr. Zamora was greeting people at the door of the piano club.

    “It’s very much a young folks versus the old folks,” he said.

    My first thought is that a proportional system would yield very different Party alignments than our two parties do, my second thought is how much the nationalizing of party platforms has warped our two parties in California, I can easily imagine a more balanced two party system if it was an independent California instead of our coastal Democrats swamping our inland Republicans, but the Democrats would look different, and the Republicans would look very different. 

    My third thought is the proposed “Common Sense” party will float like a lead ballon, as a moderate technocratic-plutocratic-culturally liberal Party has a great base of donors but very little popular support, such policies need to be bundled with more popular ones to win.

    Nice try though, it’s cute!

    • Loriot says:

      Every time I wonder if we would be better off with a proportional system, I look over at how Europe is doing and grimace. I think every system has problems, so we might as well stick to the one we’re used to.

      Also yeah, 3rd parties like that stand no chance. If they were actually serious, they’d start by trying to win local elections, which are largely non partisan.

      Also, while Sanders is enormously popular among young people, I do wonder how many secret moderates there were in those social circles who wouldn’t admit it due to peer pressure.

  3. johan_larson says:

    Action movies full of fistfights, gunfights, car chases, and other violent stuff. But they’re not all the same; some have more violence, and others have less. What’s the least violent movie that’s still at least arguably an action movie?

    • Kaitian says:

      I can’t give a title, but certainly dance / sports / car racing centered movies have lots of movement and action without much violence. If it needs to be in the Action Film genre, I think violence is part of the definition of that genre. So we’d need to define what counts as “less violent” – cartoonish violence that doesn’t lead to scars or deaths? Is punching someone in the face more or less violent than shooting them dead? Does violence against bit characters count the same as against the protagonists?

      • johan_larson says:

        These are all good questions. I don’t think they have definitive answers. But we might start by looking for films in which no one died. I suppose we should count as dead anyone who was attacked in a manner that is typically fatal, such as shooting.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      The Hunt for Red October? I remember only 2 deaths: Vasily Borodin and the GRU Agent/cook.

      • johan_larson says:

        An entire Soviet attack sub, the V. K. Konovalov, is destroyed. That’s a hundred or so dead.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      Duel, Steven Spielberg’s first cinematic effort.

    • The Nybbler says:

      “The Fugitive” has only five deaths. “Speed” has seven, though some are rather gruesome. “Kindergarten Cop” is not exactly G-rated but has only three… a record for an Arnie movie that’s not about bodybuilding? “First Blood”… one.

      Getting out of your more standard action movies, action-comedy “Home Alone” has no deaths, but a lot of cartoony violence. “Willy Wonka” is similar.

      I think Kaitian is right and if you want the least violent that’s “arguably” action, the best would be to argue about sports and dance movies. I don’t think anyone dies in the original _Footloose_, and there’s not a whole lot of violence. Not does anyone die in “Talladega Nights”.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I don’t think you could possibly classify Willy Wonka, Footloose, or Talladega Nights as “action movies.”

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t think car chases count as “violent.” You have to have some sort of punching or gun play. I nominate The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. No guns, no punching, just driving.

      • Nick says:

        There are car chases with a lot of crashed cars and collateral damage, though. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I think there was a long one in Terminator 3.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If you’re using the car as a weapon, sure. One or two people die as a result of car crashes in F&F:TD but it’s because they crashed, not because anyone was trying to kill them with a car.

    • Ketil says:

      This question has two problems, defining “action movie” and defining “violence”. By the former, do you mean a movie whose primary entertainment value and excitement stems from physical activity?

      And by the second, do you mean violence in the sense of depictions of people being physically injured, or is the risk of (but no depiction of) injury sufficient, or does it have to be intentionally caused injury (or risk)?

      Car chases seem to count unless you include risk of accidents (and most depict accidents as well, I think), dance movies often leans more on social drama and interpersonal issues than on dance as action. I guess there could be sports oriented movies that fit the bill — but then I think you might as well just watch actual sports.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Run Lola Run is the one that came to mind.

      In the final “true” thread, there is one holdup with a gun, but no violence. In prior threads there are a couple of times that threats of violence are used, but only one time a gun is fired, although it does hit Lola.

      • John Schilling says:

        Very good choice, and a movie which deserves more recognition.

        To do better than that by the OP’s standard, you’d probably need to go with a man-against-nature movie like The Perfect Storm. I think that still qualifies as an action movie, and while a fair number of people do die in it, I don’t think any of it counts as violence.

      • Loriot says:

        I’m not sure I would call that an action movie though.

        Then again, part of the problem is that definitions are fuzzy, and “action movie” is largely defined by having lots of car chases and explosions and shooting.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Tron, because computer programs aren’t real people.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Unstoppable (2010). The action and tension is mostly related to a train with no one on board that is speeding towards disaster.

      • johan_larson says:

        IIRC no one was killed, but one guy was hurt when he tried to board the train.

        Good one.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      All of Jackie Chan’s films have what I’d call a great deal of violence without anyone dying or suffering any serious injuries (leaving aside the offscreen injuries to Chan himself).

      • lvlln says:

        I can’t think of a single Jackie Chan film where I’m sure no one dies. In a good deal of his films, the main villain is killed at the end, and in a good deal of those, the main villain is established as the villain by murdering or otherwise harming people.

        I’m pretty sure his more old school kung fu films almost all had plenty of death in them, and even his more overtly comedy-focused action films like Project A, Rush Hour, Legend of Drunken Master, or Rumble in the Bronx had people killing each other. Maybe Police Story didn’t have anyone die? I don’t recall the villain in that one.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Apparently my memory has faded. Police Story does have at least one policeman die (according to the WP article), and Rumble has someone put into a shredder(!). I totally don’t remember that. What I did remember was the main villain being stripped naked by a hovercraft. And of course, Drunken Master has that epic fight scene in which the primary adversary, played by Ken Lo, is simply knocked out.

          Most of what I remember is the comedy. My takeaway here is that comedy action films might be the best place to look for action films that aren’t that violent. Or, if they are, they’re where to look for action films where we are at least prone to forget the most violent parts…

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Ancient/medieval economics question: how big would a settlement need to be to support an inn?
    Obviously the dominating factor is number of travelers, but there’s also a certain minimum population below which travelers would have to camp or seek hospitality, like a settlement pattern of individual farmhouses. What about a farming village of Dunbar’s Number along a trade or pilgrimage route?

    • gbdub says:

      I drove up and down the Stuart Highway in Australia in 2007 (the only paved road north-south thought the Outback, connecting Darwin and Port Augusta).

      There the density required to support an inn was basically nil. Several named settlements consisted of basically nothing except a “road house”, i.e. a combination gas station / pub / motel primarily serving the road train drivers on the highway. These were often the only source of service for 100km or more in either direction.

      So I think what really matters, at least along a relatively busy route, is “distance from the next inn along the route”. If there are no significant towns for a day’s travel, an inn will pop up, even if there is nothing else around but maybe scattered farms.

    • fibio says:

      There are going to be a large number of factors feeding in, but I’d wager that if you’re on any kind of trading route there will be an inn of some sort in every village it passes through. I’d add further that, if there’s need for an inn in a location, then a village will grow up around it to service it unless the terrain is laughably hostile (and even then caravansaries were a thing). If you’re off a trade route in the medieval period, though, you’re SooL and the best bet is the knock on the door of the local headman or lord. There simply wasn’t enough movement of people in much of the continent to support an inn style system.

      • Kaitian says:

        Wouldn’t most villages have a “guest house” that mostly serves as a drinking hall for the locals, but can also host some guests if needed? There probably wasn’t much long distance traveling happening in most places, but you’d still have people overnighting on the way to the next city. After all, a 100km distance would take several says of travel.

        • fibio says:

          That I couldn’t say, I imagine that most villages would have some provision for random strangers showing up beyond running them out of town but what form this took was probably quite variable based on the prosperity of the village.

          • Lambert says:

            Certain monastic orders were also quite big on hospitality.
            e.g. the Benedictines.

          • Ketil says:

            I think for many places, you would have to rely on the hospitality of the locals – possibly relying on remote family connections, guilds, or what have you. You’d need a certain critical mass of strangers with no local connection, either from a well-travelled route or a sizeable town to support a tavern or an inn as a separate business.

        • Aftagley says:

          This was my perspective also – there probably wouldn’t be a dedicated inn, but a multi-purpose establishment (likely focused on serving alcohol) that had a side function as a place where travelers could rest.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Wouldn’t most villages have a “guest house” that mostly serves as a drinking hall for the locals, but can also host some guests if needed?

          Farming villagers no, town and trading posts along trade routes yes.

          • Kaitian says:

            Do you have a specific source in mind for that? I’ve always assumed that every village (that has more than a handful of households) has some sort of dedicated public inn. If there’s not enough traffic to make it commercially viable, it’d be organized by some kind of voluntary association. But I’ll admit the only evidence I have for that is that every village around here seems to have one. I haven’t checked how many of them go back to medieval times.

    • Randy M says:

      What gbdub said.
      It’s not the size of the settlement that matters, but how many travelers come through.
      If the settlement itself is the destination, it’s probably going to need to be big to entice a large number of people to visit, or else have some unique attraction that isn’t dependent on industry or service (holy site, geographical wonder).
      But you could have a large inn a day’s journey between, say, a port and a capital city without a preexisting settlement. It will probably turn into one, though, to provide security, other services, homes for those involved in the trade, and so forth, barring some reason why a village can’t grow here.

      • johan_larson says:

        My first question about this isolated inn/roadhouse is where they get their supplies. Presumably expensive and complicated things come along the road. But what about more common goods, such as food? Moving anything in quantity overland in the ancient world is expensive, which means any provisions that have to come by road will be expensive. For cheaper food, locate the establishment in at least a farming village.

        • Randy M says:

          Keep in mind in reality the countrysides tended to be full of small villages and farms compared to larger settlements. If there isn’t at least a farmer’s market a day or two’s journey from the area in question, you probably won’t get an Inn popping up, but in that case the area in question is probably desert, mountains, or a war-zone.

          The Innkeeper will probably have some chickens and goats or cows and go buy flour etc. every so often in quantities. If this isn’t enough to feed the travelers, then there’s a lot of business coming through and the settlement will grow.

    • John Schilling says:

      I would guess that any market town would have an inn or tavern to serve the people who came for the weekly market; that and church were often the only social activities many people had outside their very small hamlets, and it often involved many hours of travel, so probably quite a few people weren’t going straight home after their utilitarian commercial activities. A bit of googling suggests market status would be awarded to towns with as few as 200 people, if there wasn’t already a market within ten miles or so.

      Also, throughout the middle ages, I believe pretty much any vaguely reputable traveler could secure lodging at the local lord’s manner, church, or some respectable townsman’s home in exchange for news/gossip and perhaps a modest material gift. Again, opportunities for outside socialization were rare, and this was an age without newspapers so the traveler’s knowledge of recent events was valuable.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What era and what is the religiosity and the religious customs? In the medieval world, guest rights are pretty much absolute, especially as a local Lord (especially since that’s the only way you get information about the world). The critical factor for pilgrims might be “how many pilgrims can I handle before it becomes annoying?” There is a Norwegian village along the Pilgrim’s Route that had a hostel set up specifically because the local Lord was annoyed with housing a bunch of people. There were also shelters set-up in the mountains with some food, sort of like the make-shift shelters along the Appalachian Trail, but with food, so pilgrims did not starve in the mountains.

      Inns as we imagine them are not a major thing until the High Middle Ages and beyond, because the economy simply could not support them. The oldest currently standing inn in France dates to the 1300s. The oldest known pubs in England probably date back to the 900s and the 1000s, and there aren’t many of them, and they were basically pubs where you might be able to pay some money to share a bed or a guest bed. And they still weren’t common, or else we would see a hell of a lot more of them today.

      At places of worship themselves, monasteries will run them, and monasteries will out compete everyone, because monasteries give beds and food for free.

      Inns are also heavy-duty investments for the medieval world, so the guys that own them tend to be local elite and run side businesses and sometimes hold official public positions like the local Reeve. Small villages probably won’t have them.

      I generally run my D&D setting with every town 1,000+ having an inn, and every large village (200+) having a 25-50% chance of having an inn. Otherwise, you’re camping or convincing the local villagers to house you.

  5. Loriot says:

    I can’t believe that only a week ago, I was seriously considering voting for Sanders because it seemed like the only way to avoid a contested convention. It’s a good thing I decided to wait for South Carolina before voting (but even then the Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropouts caught me by surprise). What a difference a week makes! It’s a good thing the Democrats seemed to have learned the lesson of the 2016 Republican primaries.

    • Plumber says:

      I wouldn’t be so optimistic just yet, while Biden absolutely has gotten the plurality of votes in more States so far, he and Sanders seem to have a close number of voters in Texas, and California is projected to vote more for Sanders, so it’s likely the delegate count will remain similar, until March 10th when Mississippi votes, and I’d guess most of their 36 delegates will go towards Biden, but Arizona and its 67 delegates will likely mostly go for Sanders on March 17th, but that same day Florida and its 219 delegates votes, and while I can’t imagine too many Cuban Americans voting for a self-described socialist, are many even registered Democrats? Illinois (155), Ohio (136), and Georgia (105) vote, which would look good for Biden, except that in 2016 a higher percentage of northern blacks voted for Sanders than did southern ones, when you realize that American blacks often retire in the south, red state Democrats tend to be relatively conservative (compared to other Democrats), and that Latin Democrats tend to be younger (on average) than black Democrats, plus among white Democrats there’s been a clear generational divide, who the nominee will be looks to me to hinge on just how many older vs. younger Democrats there are. 

      Anyone have the numbers? 

      • Loriot says:

        I’m not saying it’s literally over, though I do think it’s Biden’s race to lose now. But I was talking about how much has changed since a week ago. You may not remember, but just a week ago, it seemed like Sanders was unstoppable and the Democrats had made the mistake of 2016, with too many establishment candidates splitting the vote, allowing an extremist factional candidate to run away with the nomination. Needless to say, that didn’t happen this time. Even if Sanders does end up winning, it won’t be because of moderate vote splitting.

        As for your second question, the impression I’ve gotten is that exit polls have shown youth turnout to be low so far. Since Sanders gets most of his support from younger voters, that explains much of his dismal performance. Of course, low youth turnout is a potentially worrying sign for the general election as well.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Youth turnout is always low. A very strong indicator that a political movement will fail is “relies on young people to show up to vote.” And every time this happens, young people insist, “it’s different this time, my generation will show up to vote!” And those of us who’ve seen this a half dozen times say “no you won’t,” and the young people do not believe us because this is likely their first election.

          • Don P. says:

            Agreed. They lowered the voting age to 18, the next Presidential election Nixon won 49 states.

    • Aftagley says:

      What gets me is how much everything in the last few months just hasn’t mattered. I remember in the weeks leading up to Iowa, pretty much as soon as it became clear Joe wasn’t going to win the messaging came out that he was going to bide(n) his time until Super Tuesday and use his victory then to propel himself forward.

      Lo and behold, he waited until Super Tuesday and now looks set to use that momentum to propel himself forward. Was this a very good call on his campaign’s part, or did they just get lucky?

      • Nick says:

        How likely was that with Klobuchar and Buttigieg in the race, though? Seems to me that he was helped by their dropping out and endorsing him.

        • Aftagley says:

          I don’t disagree… but the counterpoint to that question is, how likely was it that we’d continue to so many candidates remain in the field this late in the primary season? Sure, the republicans always do, but Democrats have historically coalesced faster than this.

          If we go back to 2016, the campaign was down to Bernie and Clinton by early February. Looking back to 2008, the democratic primary in late February was Clinton v. Obama (checks notes) and uhh, Mike Gravel(?).

          It wasn’t out of the question to expect that the race would have already started to narrow by now.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The races almost always narrow after the first few primaries. Multiple candidates base their strategies on using a high primary finish to raise more money/get free media attention and push their campaign forward. This is (more or less) a zero sum game and some candidates have to disappoint and eventually bow out. This year was a little unique because Bloomberg and Steyer were self funding and didn’t need momentum to continue raising money.

          • Loriot says:

            2008 and 2016 were a bit of a unique case because Hillary was popular enough to keep most serious candidates out of the race (especially in 2016). I think 2004 was a better comparison where there were quite a few candidates going into the race. Anyone remember Howard Dean? Wesley Clark?

          • Aftagley says:

            I think 2004 was a better comparison where there were quite a few candidates going into the race.

            Sure, but again by early March the only candidates left on the ballot were Kerry, Edwards and Kucinich; Edwards conceded on March 3rd, 2004 and while Kucinich kept fighting for a while, Kerry pretty much had the nomination on lock by mid march.

          • Loriot says:

            Sorry, it looks like we both basically agree. Primaries historically do winnow pretty quickly, regardless of how many candidates run initially.

          • Aftagley says:

            Right, sorry for not making my point explicit: Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropping out around this time is pretty normal for a primary. If Joe’s overall strategy was out-last the other candidates who were in his lane, the strategy seemed to have paid off.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think it was Biden’s strategy, he was just to weak of a candidate to dominate the field and it just sort of fell this way. Downplaying bad results is par for the course, and he is 78 and trying to run for president the 3rd time, he wasn’t going to give up early.

      • Loriot says:

        I think they just got very lucky. The last week has basically got as best as it possibly could for Biden.

      • baconbits9 says:

        It is not that the last few months didn’t matter, its that the last 4 years mattered and a lot of people forgot about 4 years ago. Sanders has a large base for a candidate but has struggled with broader appeal. Even if Warren dropped out and 100% of her followers went over to Sanders he still wouldn’t have ever cracked 50% in national polls.

      • Ketil says:

        What gets me is the negligible impact of Bloomberg’s money. People seemed to expect his massive marketing to make a big difference. Makes sense, I guess, if you believe the prevailing narrative that a few well-placed Facebook posts by Putin’s henchmen caused Trump to be elected instead of the rightful heiress to the realm.

        • Loriot says:

          Rich people trying to buy their way into an election basically never works. Remember Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman?

          People think money in politics is a lot more important than it actually is. Money can help at the margin, but ultimately, you have to actually be popular. Sometimes, money can even backfire if voters get the perception that you’re just trying to buy the race.

          Or as I described it before, money can buy you a hearing but it can’t buy you a verdict.

          • albatross11 says:

            The weird thing is, Bloomberg also had name recognition and a successful history in politics, so his attempt to spend money to win the election seemed intuitively to be more likely to succeed than the attempt of someone like Fiorina.

            My guess is that the main advantage of deep pockets would come in being able to stay in the race for a long time. If Bloomberg had run a normal race, he wouldn’t have had to worry about getting enough donors to stay in the race early on, while folks like Kloubachar and Harris did have to worry about that.

          • Statismagician says:

            I believe the political sciencetist’s position is that money can make things not happen fairly reliably, mostly through lobbying about arcane technical details that e.g. just-so-happen to make the new exciting antipollution bill kind of useless at preventing pollution. Making things happen, and especially making people happen, not so much, though.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Bloomberg entered a crowded race late and was polling in the mid to high teens before he had some terrible debate appearances. If he had preformed well in the debates there is a good chance he would have bumped into the low 20s and well ahead of Biden and the narrative would be ‘I can’t believe he bought the election, this is terrible’.

          • Ketil says:

            Remember Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman?

            No, but I guess that just proves your point 🙂

        • Nick says:

          And now Bloomberg’s out of the race. Wow.

          I swear all my predictions the last two weeks or so have been wrong. This is so embarrassing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            See, that’s why I didn’t make any.

            But I will make one now. Biden owes a deep debt of gratitude to black voters. I predict he will choose an African-American running mate, probably a woman.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Biden needs to either pander to the far left and pick Warren as VP or pick someone young to boost their stock for 4-8 years from now and help out the party, like Pete.

          • Plumber says:

            @baconbits9 says: “Biden needs to…”

            To win yes, but I think @Conrad Honcho is right, Biden isn’t an intellectual giant, gratitude and honor rather thsn calculation will compel Biden to have a black V.P., and it won’t help him in the general, but most likely a southern black woman (so not Kamala Harris), as they really saved his campaign (does Jim Clyburn have a niece? Just kidding! It will be Stacey Abrams).

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think Biden is also going to be pushed by the general party who will be looking to win the election, not express gratitude. Plus there is no obvious candidate who does that.

          • acymetric says:

            I guess it’s a question of doubling down on strengths vs. shoring up weaknesses (to the extent that VP choice has any real impact on either).

            Biden’s strength is supposed to be support from black people in the South (and generally, I guess), so what does he gain, really, by further catering to that demographic with is VP pick? If it is valuable to double down on that strength, this would be the way to go though.

            If the goal is to pull more progressive voters in, a progressive candidate like Warren (not necessarily Warren specifically, although maybe her) would be a good choice. This strikes me as his greatest weakness, were I a strategist shoring up support from progressives would be a top priority. Seems like it could be accomplished either by selecting a progressive VP or picking some issue that he thinks he could slide further to the left on that appeals to progressives.

            The final option, it seems to me, would be to choose someone to help lock up the Midwest. I suppose Klobuchar might fit well here (although I don’t think she makes a great VP candidate). This option probably has the highest likelihood of success, as doubling down on African American support seems unlikely to see significant returns, and trying to appeal to progressives probably isn’t going to work because he’s never going to go left enough (although I still think he should at least make the effort). Some of those Midwest states are really important.

          • albatross11 says:

            Kloubachar at least is young and vigorous enough to seem likely to still be upright at the end of 8 years.

    • gbdub says:

      If the last 4 years don’t inspire the major parties to go to something like ranked choice voting for their primaries, what will?

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s a good thing the Democrats seemed to have learned the lesson of the 2016 Republican primaries.

      More important, I think, is the fact that pretty much everyone who might even think of voting for a Democratic candidate in November, remembers the last Democratic president reasonably fondly. In 2016, everybody who would even think of voting for a Republican president was remembering Dubya.

      In both the 2016/Republican and 2020/Democratic cases, the party establishment really, really wanted to push the man most closely associated with their party’s last president. That’s a winning strategy for Joe, but no power on Earth could make it work for Jeb.

  6. Mark V Anderson says:

    Cancel culture moves to the right.

    link text

    There is a controversy in Minnesota as to whether to allow a new copper mine in Northern Minnesota. The environmentalists mostly say that copper mines always pollute surrounding water, so it doesn’t matter what protections the company is providing. The pro-mine people claim the protections are fine, but really care only about the jobs that come with the mine. An Indian tribe in the area supports the environmentalists, so their resort is boycotted by the right.

    I hate these political boycotts. But will the left learn from such boycotts so they won’t boycott so fast next time? Eh, probably not, so this boycott is as bad as from the left.

    • If someone keeps beating you up and you never fight back, that’s not admirable. It’s pathetic.

    • Loriot says:

      It’s not exactly the first time the right has tried to boycott things. Boycotts are frequently attempted and rarely successful (regardless of who’s doing it), but that’s nothing new.

      • Aftagley says:

        Just from memory:

        Early 2018 – the right tries to cancel Yeti

        Late 2017 – the right tries to cancel Keurig

        There were rumblings of a boycott of Nike following the kaepernick thing

        This happens all the time.

        • Chalid says:

          In the 1960s, conservative Christians tried to ban the Beatles because of Lennon’s remarks in an interview. This isn’t a new thing.

          It may perhaps be the case that this stuff has recently become more common or more successful than it used to be, but that case is probably hard to make in a reasonably rigorous way.

        • albatross11 says:

          Are there good examples of ideological boycotts against products like this that actually had much impact? I mean, the famous boycotts were stuff like blacks refusing to ride buses where they weren’t allowed to sit in front, but there was a pretty direct mistreatment-of-the-customer thing going on there that doesn’t seem to work very well in trying to get conservatives to refuse to buy Starbucks because they’re too woke or something.

          • Loriot says:

            In order for a boycott to possibly work, you need to have the majority of the consumer base agree with the boycott and you need to have it be something people care enough about to make major changes to their behavior. Neither is the case for most ideological boycotts.

            I do think that Lyft benefited from Uber’s bad PR in the bay area though. But that’s sort of an unstable equilibrium between two near identical products, so there’s little cost in switching.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In order for a boycott to possibly work, you need to have the majority of the consumer base agree with the boycott

            Or you need a faction inside the company who agrees with the policy change demanded. The boycotters are then a tool used by one insider against another.

      • gbdub says:

        I do think it is worth distinguishing between “boycott this business because it does bad things” and “boycott this business because its owners hold a basically unrelated political view we don’t like”.
        Not that this case is really a novel example of either.

        EDIT: inspired by Aftagley’s post, a third category would be “boycott this business because the business decided to make an unrelated political stance part of their brand”

    • BBA says:

      In 2004, some Republicans boycotted Heinz because John Kerry’s wife’s first husband was a member of the Heinz family. Somebody took advantage of it by making a “W ketchup” with the requisite flags and eagles on the label. Nothing new under the sun.

    • DragonMilk says:

      While corporate boycotts fail, personal attacks seem more effective. After all, thoughtcrime is a thing in the UK now with, “non-crime hate incidents” affecting employment!

  7. brad says:

    In this era when wokeness is supposed to be reigning supreme, isn’t it rather interesting that the four people with any remaining chance at being inaugurated President next January are old, straight, white men?

    • GearRatio says:

      I don’t find this surprising for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that you can’t really optimize for two things; a person who is optimized for having the right gender/sexual preferences/race is pretty statistically likely to be shitty compared to a “generic white guy” who got where he was by optimizing for “effective politician”.

      Even after that, the woke candidates weren’t even optimized for wokeness for the most part. People feel pretty good about the black politician thing; it’s old hat, nobody is that excited about being a mere black woman anymore. So Harris didn’t count. White women are even more nothing, and these are the whitest women ever and clearly faking the whole woke thing for votes. The gay guy doesn’t seem that gay; I have had conversations with multiple people who were surprised to learn he was.

      So before you get to the part where the real holders of power are perfectly prepared to protect themselves from the woke thing, you have several famous successful politicians in the straight-white-man group, and maybe 1 or 2 valid choices in the woke group, but barely. That’s not the recipe for the year we get a very woke president.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        The gay guy doesn’t seem that gay; I have had conversations with multiple people who were surprised to learn he was.

        This is surprising to me. I would have expected people with little information about Pete Buttigieg to know that he was gay and almost nothing else. (As I recall, it’s the very first fact about him I ever learned.)

        • GearRatio says:

          This is the same with me, too, but in talking with the few people this was true of it was less “I went and did research on the guy” and more “I became aware of him through clips and such, he’s a moderate, right?” type of situation.

        • Jake R says:

          I knew that he was the mayor of South Bend and was running for president. I didn’t find out he was gay or anything else about him until after Iowa.

    • gbdub says:

      Well, of the four, one is the incumbent representing the “anti-woke”, one is the VP of the first black president and maintains a lot of popularity among black Americans, one has an extremely vocal following from the last election that thinks he got hosed by the anointed DNC choice, and one bought his way to relevance and has no clear path to victory that isn’t “DNC screws Bernie again”. As for the drop outs, well, they lost, but almost all of them checked at least one identity politics box. Biden and Bernie were the obvious top two from day one based on past performance and no other straight white dudes came close.

      Frankly the rather extreme age of all the candidates is a bigger surprise than their pallor or gender.

      The candidates riding the “woke” wave (e.g. “The Squad”) are mostly too new or too young to be viable presidential candidates. The presidential candidates are going to lag the trends that are shaping the composition of the lower elected offices. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, and it certainly doesn’t mean that “woke” politics have not influenced the Democratic platform.

      It may indicate that “wokeness” has a loud voice (there was certainly a lot of noise about the lack of minorities in the Dem field) but a small constituency. Which makes sense, “wokeness” and “intersectionality” seem to be primarily a concern of the college educated middle and upper classes.

      Warren seemed to want to lean hard into intersectionality, but that didn’t win her a lot of voters. Talking about race like an old white Harvard professor is probably not going to connect with urban minorities. Mayor Pete’s sexual orientation is probably still a turn off for more of the Dem base than the DNC would care to admit, and also had a “race problem”. Harris lacked a national profile, and to the extent she had one “district attorney” is not a resume plus for the woke crowd. Being black and female probably gave her more viability than her experience would have warranted if she were not. I’m still not sure why Klobuchar was ever supposed to be a winner.

      On the gripping hand, “wokeness” is more of a lens for looking at issues than a movement that’s going to obviously unite people behind a particular presidential candidate, and the presidential race is still about individuals.

      • Plumber says:

        @gbdub says:

        “…Frankly the rather extreme age of all the candidates is a bigger surprise than their pallor or gender…”

        Yeah, it’s a little surprising how few viable candidates are “on the bench”, it’s like a whole generation was skipped

        “…It may indicate that “wokeness” has a loud voice (there was certainly a lot of noise about the lack of minorities in the Dem field) but a small constituency. Which makes sense, “wokeness” and “intersectionality” seem to be primarily a concern of the college educated middle and upper classes…”

        That seems a very fair assessment to me.

        “…Warren seemed to want to lean hard into intersectionality, but that didn’t win her a lot of voters. Talking about race like an old white Harvard professor is probably not going to connect with urban minorities…”

        Her using the term “Latin-x” looked to me very “Ivory Tower” no matter what her early background was, far more “teacher” than “waitress”.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yeah, it’s a little surprising how few viable candidates are “on the bench”, it’s like a whole generation was skipped

          Generation X is too small to matter politically, and always has been. That’s your skipped generation.

          • DeWitt says:

            Do you mind informing the rest of the world? We’ve had an X’er for prime minister for a decade now

          • Randy M says:

            Do you think other generations are voting old out of solidarity? It seems you’d want a heartier person with your values than one of your age bracket who you hope can hang on through a term.

        • Clutzy says:

          In addition to what Nybbler says, you have to also account for it being the Baby boomers (did you know Trump, Bush, and Clinton were borne in the same year?), a generation uniquely known for its desire to pull up the ladder behind itself.

      • Loriot says:

        > I’m still not sure why Klobuchar was ever supposed to be a winner.

        She’s a popular senator who won in the midwest by huge margins. On paper, she has a very strong electability argument.

        • gbdub says:

          There are 17 Democratic women senators. Why was she particularly strong? I had honestly never heard of her before she started showing up at Democratic debates.

          Especially when there is another white Boomer woman Democrat senator with the same haircut but much better name recognition running against her.

          • Loriot says:

            She won her last two elections by 24% and 35% in a state that’s almost purple. Note that the other Democratic senator that year only won by 9%. Also, her home state borders Wisconsin, a swing state which is likely to be important in 2020.

          • gbdub says:

            Those are all things that look good to a DNC wonk trying to craft an ideal candidate to win the general. I don’t think it should be a surprise that none of them make you stand out in a crowded field with much bigger, more recognizable personalities.

            I’m not trying to argue she’s not “qualified” or “electable” or anything (I actually preferred her to the rest of the Dems on a policy basis, and would have voted for her in the general), just that it’s not clear why anyone would have thought she had a chance in this primary field.

          • Loriot says:

            Keep in mind that at the time Klobuchar launched her bid, Biden hadn’t entered the race yet. If Biden had declared first, I doubt she would have run.

            Also, it can be surprisingly difficult to tell who will prove popular in advance. Kamala Harris had all the makings of a front runner but still failed. And you have to be kind of insanely optimistic to even run in the first place.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Klobuchar is an ideological moderate that’s good on the debate stage. She can make attacks but still looks approachable because of her genuine Midwestern charm (which is the best charm in the world, unlike that fake, passive-aggressive Southern Charm). Note that she beat both Biden and Warren in New Hampshire and earned a delegate in Iowa.

            There’s a reason that she was still in the race and earned a NYT endorsement, even though she didn’t have the name recognition of other candidates.

            Maybe it’s just because I am also from the Midwest, but she was one of the few Democratic candidates I could tolerate. I think the only one I legitimately would have liked was Delaney, who stood no chance whatsoever. The rest of these candidates are freakin’ horrible.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Honestly, the only one I am legitimately surprised about is Kamala Harris going nowhere. I thought she was definitely going to be a front-runner, but she dropped out early and never garnered much support.

      • Plumber says:

        @A Definite Beta Guy says:

        “Honestly, the only one I am legitimately surprised about is Kamala Harris…”

        Me too, though I should have guessed from a debate I listened to that was on the the radio a few months back as listening to her words was far less impressive than watching her on television!

        • Clutzy says:

          She wasn’t even impressive on TV. So that must have been really bad.

          I’d say her debates were a problem, but also her strategy was. She needed to lean into being a hard nose prosecutor that locked people up. Its not the woke lane, but she would have gotten a solid foothold in the 50+ black community, and probably could have shut Bloomberg out of having any lane at all. That is a solid 10-15% showing that you could launch from, if you just put your foot down and act tough in debates.

          Also I think @gearratio above has a great point. Contra the woke narrative, most diversity politicians (Obama and AOC being exceptions), are not actually very good at the job. Warren, if she was a man, would have struggled to become a dean at a directional school (and she would have been Dean Wormer from Animal House or Dean Pritchard in Old School, not exactly appealing personalities); Kamala got her start because she was the mistress of a powerful man; Pete was only good at doing an Obama impression.

          As someone who lives in a big city, this is not an outlier. Elections look a lot like a racial spoils system. And incompetent minorities are oft elevated to the top-middle. They don’t really get to be mayor all that much, but they do dominate the Alderman positions.

          • Loriot says:

            The impression I get is that Warren is a pretty impressive policy wonk when it comes to banking related issues. It’s just that she decided to run as “Bernie, except for educated people” and ended up losing to the actual Bernie.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Loriot: And college kids already liked Actual Bernie, sooo…

          • Silverlock says:

            most diversity politicians (Obama and AOC being exceptions), are not actually very good at the job.

            AOC is good at her job? I am about the least political person around — to the point that I rarely read political threads on SSC — but I have seen no evidence that she is competent in any area other than charisma. What have I missed? Or is charisma what you are talking about?

          • Ketil says:

            AOC is good at her job?

            No idea of how she performs in her paid job, but as a politician, she seems to be extremely popular with large segments of what I would call the populist left¹. So I would say that she is very good at that part of her job.

            ¹ Apologies if that is an offensive term, but people who call for the end of capitalism and replacing industry with organic agriculture, etc. People who tend to rely on emotional arguments more than rational analysis.

          • Clutzy says:


            Or is charisma what you are talking about?

            Yes that is the job of a politician, otherwise I wouldnt include Obama in a competent category.

      • Loriot says:

        Kamala Harris is basically the stereotypical Democratic nominee. But she really suffered from the crowded field and ended up not being the first choice for much of anybody.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Harris turned out to have a “tough on crime” reputation that I don’t think anyone would consider in keeping with current Democrat values. I can see a case from the left for wanting crime under control, of course, Harris was accused of working to convict considerable numbers of people that other Democrats think should have been innocent. I think that’s what caused her downfall (compounded by her inability to convincingly defend it).

          • Loriot says:

            It was a liability, but it wouldn’t have been fatal if people actually liked her.

          • acymetric says:

            It isn’t really any different from Biden, except that she was the actual prosecutor instead of just a politician advocating the policies.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the time period matters when we’re talking Biden vs. Harris on criminal justice. People keep giving Biden a hard time about the mid-90s Crime Bill, but that wasn’t whitey trying to keep the black man down: crack was really, really bad, and black people did not like it in their communities. Little black grandmas were really tired of looking out their front window and seeing crack deals on the street, and the black community was strongly behind locking these people up.

            It was not known at the time that the add-on effects of stepped-up enforcement and tough sentences would be the era of mass incarceration. But by the time Harris was AG in 2010, the crack epidemic was long over and the harms of mass incarceration were manifest.

    • It surprised me. I always thought Biden had a good shot but figured one of the woke would be his main opponent. It just goes to show that you should always be looking at who’s consistently ahead in the polls. Some had their day in the sun but it was always Biden and Sanders at the top.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Is this really true? Do we have enough data on past polling to confirm it?

        I once looked into a more limited question – who led in the polls in January of an election year, vs. who won the nomination – and found that the January leader only got the nomination if they were the incumbent and therefore a shoe-in. Examples included Pat Buchanan in 1996, John McCain (I think) in 2000, Howard Dean in 2004, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney in 2008, and a weird three-way race between Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul in 2012. It wasn’t until 2016 that the January buzz resulted in an actual nomination (of Trump).

        Which kinda strengthens your point, even though I wasn’t terribly scientific. Also, I wasn’t looking at who was consistently polling well; I was just looking at the leader in January in any poll I could find. (Another thing I found out was that it was rather hard to find monthly polling data at the time.)

        • I can’t speak for all the presidential elections, especially as the data gets spotty the farther back you go. But if you look at the polling averages of the last three of them, you constantly see people go up and down but the ones who won were those who were consistently well while the three you mentioned bounced around a lot in 2012. I’m pretty sure that Mitt Romney was doing consistently well.

          • Loriot says:

            Open presidential primaries often go through “flavor of the month” candidates. I remember the time they rapidly cycled through Herman Cain and that Texan Guy Who Forgot His Departments and That Congresswoman From Canada before settling on Santorum who happened to be in vogue when Iowa came around. (Romney of course actually won)

    • BBA says:

      Not sure how Bloomberg (with his commanding win in American Samoa) has any more of a chance than Warren (who, in this septuagenarian field, has her biggest advantage in the actuarial tables).

    • Plumber says:

      @brad says:

      “In this era when wokeness is supposed to be reigning supreme, isn’t it rather interesting that the four people with any remaining chance at being inaugurated President next January are old, straight, white men?”

      I’m not surprised as The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate, I mean where does anyone encounter “wokeness”?

      Besides ink and pixels, the only two places I encounter any “wokeness” are posters at public elementary schools (and now that we’re ‘homeschooling’ that’s not a factor) and at the Public Defenders building. 

      That’s it, everywhere else “woke” is a joke.

      As California is eliminating the high school level remedial classes from its community colleges (where our older son has been going instead of middle school and now high school), we’ll probably send our younger son to Catholic school, which leaves the multi-stall restrooms at Walgreen’s now effectively turned into giant single stall “Gender Neutral” restrooms (with one door lock for the whole restroom!) as the only place effected (so “woke capitalism”), and that makes me more annoyed with businesses than with self-flagellating co-eds and their boyfriends, otherwise, that the collegiate class enjoys their BDSM ‘self criticism” and “privilege awarness” sessions is pretty funny, I suggest “palamino” as safe word (but I really wonder if that is as widespread as click-bait makes it seem)!

      As for the election results themselves; while I’m a bit ticked a nominee isn’t already apparent, I’m very happy with the two frontrunners, I like Biden, he just seems like a good drinking buddy, and Sanders fits my temperament when I’ve worked overtime and have had a lot of coffee! 

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Wokeness is a corporate ideology, not a mass movement, and even American politicians at least have to pretend to appeal to the general public in order to win elections. There’s a reason it’s so strongly associated with purges, firings, and moderators, but so seldom with, say, boycotts or protests. (Or at least, ones not massively outnumbered by buycotts and counter-protests.)

    • Pink-Nazbol says:

      Identifying Bloomberg and Sanders as white may be defensible from a genetic standpoint but is off-base from a social identity standpoint. When woke Jews are complaining that there are too many “white men” in positions of power they aren’t thinking of their own group. They’re talking about white Christians.

      • Loriot says:

        Only disadvantaged groups count in woke politics. Plus occasionally Asians. It’s not like anyone knows or cares whether there’s a candidate of Italian descent either.

        Also, by “Christian”, I assume you mean “non-Jewish”.

      • brad says:

        Thanks for letting me know how leftish Jews think. That’s such a far group for me that it’s impossible for me to know unless someone like you lets me in on the inside scoop.

        • Loriot says:

          I’m not trying to speak for Jewish people here. I don’t have any inside knowledge. I’m just going by my observations of the culture wars.

          When people talk about “diversity”, they basically always mean either hiring more women or hiring more black people, or occasionally latinos. I’ve seen companies talk about hiring more disabled candidates sometimes, but I’ve literally never seen anyone talk about trying to higher more Jews.

          The thing is that Jews *won*. They’re so successful that they got absorbed into the elites and just became “white people” whenever the topic is anything other than Isreal policy. Antisemitism is so far discredited that it is basically unthinkable outside of the internet forums that respectable people avoid.

          Incidentally, I suspect this process will play out with Asians over time. They already conveniently get omitted from discussions about diversity in tech and college admissions due to being over-represented rather than underrepresented. It’s a bit ironic that back in the early 20th century, colleges introduced holistic admissions because too many Jews were acing the tests. Now it’s the same thing except with Asians. The same people would decry the antisemitism of the past who are cheering on affirmative action now. But such is human nature.

          Of course, a lot of this is also context dependent. For example, while Asians dominate tech and dominate higher education, they still get the short end of the stick when it comes to Hollywood. So if you’re talking about media depictions of minority characters, it absolutely makes sense to cheer on movies with Asian leads or the like.

        • Plumber says:

          @brad >

          “…inside scoop”

          That heaping helping of sarcasm brightened my morning.


        • Pink-Nazbol says:

          Nothing you are saying contradicts my point. Yes, average people think Jews are white. But why have you heard a lot more about Biden’s race than Bernie’s? When you hear Bernie talked about as a *snarl snarl* old white man, it’s probably by a non-white liberal in a second-rate publication. You don’t hear people at CNN talk like that.

          Meanwhile Klein, who is almost certainly Jewish, is slammed by the media as a racist “white woman,” even though in the viral video of the incident, she screams at an intruding bystander and calls her a “white woman,” leading Trevor Noah to ask on the aforementioned Daily Show episode, “Why would a white lady call another white lady a white lady as if she weren’t white herself?” prompting every Jew in America to slap their collective foreheads and yell at the TV, “Please don’t raise issues like that, you stupid little kushi.”

    • eric23 says:

      I wonder if one of the factors is the knowledge that Hillary lost an election she should have won, and the suspicion that any female candidate opposing Trump in the election after Hillary will suffer from the same effect.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t find it interesting at all. The Dems last two nominees have been a woman and a black man, and a woman and a Jewish man came in 2nd in those, and that jewish man is still in this race. To make this statement sound impressive you have to ignore that Bernie would represent a notable shift for presidential nominees and also that the Dems top woman and best minority candidate have already run recently. There aren’t 30 candidates like Obama (white, black, female, male, hispanic, jewish whatever) just hanging out waiting to burst onto the scene and sweep the nomination. This is why the White house so frequently changes hands after a two term president, the other party has already lost their top candidate and the #2 guy is rarely as strong.

      What I do think is interesting is that of the 4 people still in the democratic race only 1 is a boomer and 3 are from the generation before. Boomers are the largest segment of the population and by far the largest segment to draw candidates from and yet the Ds aren’t finding many palatable nominees from that group, but again this could be because they lost their top two from the boomer generation to the previous races.

    • lvlln says:

      In this era when wokeness is supposed to be reigning supreme, isn’t it rather interesting that the four people with any remaining chance at being inaugurated President next January are old, straight, white men?

      Agreed, it’s definitely rather interesting, in how it seems to indicate that, much like what both the data and pundits have been saying, the way in which wokeness is reigning supreme in this era is through tyranny by a powerful minority rather than popularity/democracy. In everyday life, there are various points of power where woke proponents have felt free to take over so that wokeness reigns supreme, but when an actual democratic process that takes into account the actual desires of the populace (the Dem primary system is obviously not fully democratic, but clearly it has lots of strongly democratic characteristics with large influence from private ballots), wokeness loses out.

      This seems like a sign that, in the long run, wokeness’s reign of supremacy is likely to die out, since it seems to conflict with the will of the populace, and a small minority reigning over people who disagree with them is unstable. However, progress isn’t something that just magically happens, it must be pushed along by lots of individuals making individual decisions, observations, arguments, etc. and so this isn’t an indication that those who find wokeness to be undesirable ought to just sit back and relax.

    • John Schilling says:

      In this era when wokeness is supposed to be reigning supreme

      Wokeness only reigns supreme among the yoots, and as Conrad Honcho points out, they mostly don’t bother to vote.

      This may not be a coincidence; voting is for people who believe that quiet, private action can change the world, and “wokeness” in its popular manifestation is for people who despair of any action beyond shouting louder than the other side.

  8. EchoChaos says:

    Conspiracy theory!

    Joe Biden is in fact a religious worshiper of Cthulhu, but only lets slip his true beliefs subtly. For example, he hints at his belief that the universe indeed springs from unnamed, and indeed unnamable cosmic chaos here:

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Is that part of the Cthulu mythos? What’s the origin story for humanity in those things? I thought the old gods paid us no heed, because we are like ants to them. They didn’t create us.

    • Plumber says:

      That’s a much more plausible theory than lingering effects from the two life-threatening brain aneurysms he had in 1988!

      Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn 2020!

      • oerpli says:

        I think the more plausible theory is that he wanted to say “God” but then remembered the briefing a woke staffer gave him at some point that he shouldn’t say “God” but [whatever is not islamophobic according to woke people]. He didn’t remember the details (because he wasn’t really listening during the briefing as I don’t think Biden really cares about things like that) and thus stumbled.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I understand this is the explanation for George W. Bush’s famous quote,

          “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

          Half way through he realizes he’s about to say “shame on me,” which will obviously be taken out of context in critical political ads and what not and ad libs something. Not sure if the result was better than just taking the hit from “shame on me.”

          • acymetric says:

            It was probably just a tiny bit better for him, but certainly more amusing for the rest of us than endless ads playing the sound clip of him saying “Fool me once, shame on me…fool me twice – ” over a series of stills (probably of war scenes or something).

            That moment was pure gold.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho,
            That seems a very apt comparison to me, as Biden’s verbal gaffes remind me a lot of Bush’s, and in many ways, despite their differences in backgrounds (Delaware/Pennsylvania middle-class instead of Maine/Texas patrician) and Party affiliation, Biden does remind me of the younger President Bush, and in the same “have a beer with” way (though Bush was actually AA).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Half way through he realizes he’s about to say “shame on me,” which will obviously be taken out of context in critical political ads and what not and ad libs something.

            Or maybe he started saying the aphorism while his favorite The Who song was stuck in his head?

        • Tarpitz says:

          That’s a long o – he’s not saying “God”, he’s saying “goat”. Or rather, “Goat”. As in, “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!”

          Per Joe Biden, we are all the progeny of Shub-Niggurath.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn 2020!

        Obama was his prophet and anticipator, as was revealed in his misheard quote:

        Ch’neh et mah w’afl

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          “China ate my waffle…?”

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            A common mistake. R’lyehian contained many more voiceless fricatives, or at least, what humans would call those originally alien vocalizations.

            It’s hard to say exactly what was pronounced – the recording was nearly accidental, and some argue that even quality recordings do not capture full utterances in that tongue – but in any case, it’s moot; I had misremembered what he’d said, and bad paraphrases in this case are important. Apparently it was closer to

            W’hcn tih gzt’et mah w’afl…

    • Well... says:

      Biden’s championing of civil asset forfeiture is plenty proof of his worshiping evil. Not too subtle though.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is not the thread for any sort of serious political analysis, good sir.

        I won’t have it, you hear!

    • Protagoras says:

      Meh, he’s not a true believer. Just subtly pandering to those tired of voting for the lesser evil.

  9. Well... says:

    I think it was a comedian or someone like that who pointed out that popular music usually celebrates fun things that are about to happen in the near future, rather than things that are currently happening:

    “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999”
    “I’m coming up so you’d better get this party started”
    “For those about to rock, we salute you”
    “I can’t wait for tonight with you, I imagine the things we do”

    Applying Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality, this is kinda significant. The thing that is just about to happen is probably at a maximum point of dynamic quality (that “leading edge of the train” he talks about), whereas things that are currently happening or have already happened have already settled into static patterns of quality, and things that are far off in the future do not yet have any discernable pattern at all.

    • Eric Rall says:

      There’s some cherry-picking there. Here’s some counterexamples:

      Present Events
      “We all live in a Yellow Submarine…”
      “Baby, you’re a rich man, too!”

      Past Events
      “Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed ’cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed”
      “I took off for a weekend last month, trying to recall the whole year…”
      “Come dancing / That’s how they did it when I was just a kid /And when they said come dancing / My sister always did.”

    • Loriot says:

      Wasn’t Party like it’s 1999 a) originally written in the early 80s, and b) about partying in the face of imminent apocalypse due to Y2K?

      • acymetric says:

        I don’t think Y2K was a thing in the 80s?

      • Well... says:

        It’s irrelevant. Prince didn’t mean that in nearly two decades hence we’d be partying because it’s 1999 (in fact that would make the song pretty nonsensical: the lyric is “like” and not “because” for a reason), he meant that tonight we are going to party in the same manner as we would if it was 1999.

  10. Eric T says:

    We have the first Fed Emergency Rate Cut in over a decade. This seems somewhat premature, but I suppose better early then late when it comes to blunting potential economic crashes. Still considering the stock market seems to be recovering from early coronavirus fears I’m a bit surprised by the move. Is there something I’m not seeing here? What does the Fed lose from waiting a week or two to see if the market stabilizes on its own?

    • Aftagley says:

      I will take a bet from anyone for any amount up to $100 that within the next two weeks we will see convincing evidence that late last week the white house began to panic about this and leaned on the Fed.

      I would place the odds that this was an uninfluenced decision made by sober economists as being close to zero.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Trump has been calling for a deeper rate cut since approximately forever, so if he had the opportunity to not let a crisis go to waste and get the rate cut he wanted before the crisis that is hardly surprising at all.

        • Aftagley says:

          Oh, yeah. I didn’t say this was a particularly surprising or controversial claim, just that I’d be willing to make a bet.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Ah. I am also willing to take $100 from anyone here who wants to give it to me.

          • Aftagley says:

            Shhhhhhh! You’ll give away the game.

          • Cliff says:

            It’s very simple. The natural rate of interest has fallen quickly (due to slower growth expectations), so the Fed has to drop rates to keep up with it, so as not to unduly restrict the money supply. The Fed’s monetary stance would otherwise have become much tighter, and that’s not what you want.

            Markets clearly signaled an expectation that inflation would drop going several years into the future. Any time that happens the Fed will step in.

            If you can define the parameters of what would be a win or loss, I may take your bets. The WH leaning on the Fed would likely cause the Fed to delay a rate cut rather than accelerate it.

        • Loriot says:

          But Trump’s actual actions are mostly driven by the stockmarket. We saw this earlier with the trade war. Trump was bellicose as long as the stock market was booming or unchanged, but whenever it took a dive, he quickly walked back or watered down his tariffs. The stock market is the one indicator he seems to care about more than anything else.

          • Cliff says:

            It is also probably the single best barometer of the health of the economy. So that seems to be to his credit.

          • broblawsky says:

            It is also probably the single best barometer of the health of the economy. So that seems to be to his credit.

            Hard disagree on this one. If your primary concern is the labor market, initial (and continuing) unemployment claims are much better.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is also probably the single best barometer of the health of the economy.

            Its a lousy barometer, I guess you could say its the best of a bunch of lousy barometers but I wouldn’t agree there either.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            Re: Stock market as barometer of economy

            Isn’t that rather like basing weather predictions off the betting pool of a poker game? Sure, the players have an interest in being right about the weather, but they also have an interest in profiting from the mistakes of other players.

          • eric23 says:

            As soon as you try to optimize for a single metric, that metric loses its predictive value.

            (Isn’t this the mantra of SSC or something?)

          • Loriot says:

            Trump isn’t even really optimizing for the stock market. He just reverse course whenever there’s a notable dive.

          • Chalid says:

            The main advantage of the stock market (and other markets) as a barometer of the economy is that it updates more or less in real time and all the better metrics are delayed by weeks or months.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The main advantage of the stock market (and other markets) as a barometer of the economy is that it updates more or less in real time and all the better metrics are delayed by weeks or months.

            Yes, and it is also the main drawback of stock markets. You get lots of data points without knowing which ones are of high quality.

      • broblawsky says:

        I’m pretty sure Trump has tweeted in the double-digits about the Fed in at least the last week.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think mainly they want to be seen as Doing Something. Also, (at least according to some news sources) the stock market recovery seems to have in part been in anticipation of central banks Doing Something, so failing to Do Something could have caused another crash from the missed expectation.

    • broblawsky says:

      The stock market didn’t recover from coronavirus fears, it just anticipated the rate cut. The Fed never disappoints the market; this means the market has partial control of the Fed – sometimes referred to as the “reflexivity” problem.

    • Statismagician says:

      Help me check my understanding – the theory behind this sort of move is that lower rates will let other groups more effectively do [whatever things they were going to do] because they’ll have easier access to credit, right?

      • broblawsky says:

        Yes. The Fed supports banks by lending at a baseline rate if they run out of liquid assets, thereby protecting the banks against a liquidity crisis. That baseline rate controls all other US interest rates, and to a degree, all global interest rates; it’s the fundamental price of credit.

        The Fed rate tracks pretty well with the Treasury 3-month bill rate, which in turn tracks pretty well with the rate for short-term corporate lending (corporate paper), which is one of the primary instruments backing money-market funds (around 3 trillion $ worth of money). Cutting the Fed rate directly lets corporations borrow more easily.

      • Aftagley says:

        he theory behind this sort of move is that lower rates will let other groups more effectively do [whatever things they were going to do] because they’ll have easier access to credit, right?

        I’m actually going to go against Broblawksy and say, at least in this case, no, that’s not what this move is designed to do.

        Like, in theory you and him are correct – when the fed lowers rates it incentivizes banks to lend money to groups. In theory, if the market is bad AND rates are too high, banks will determine that the profit they can make not lending money is more worthwhile than lending money and exposing themselves to risk. In this case, banks hold on to money, people who need money to fund projects can’t get it, we run into a credit squeeze and the economy stalls out.

        But, there was no indication that banks were restricting lending in response to the market disruptions over COVID 19. I guess you can argue that this was because they knew that rates would get lowered, but even then you’d expect temporary disruption. I guess you can also argue that this kind of squeeze was coming but just hadn’t had time to develop yet, and the fed was coming in ahead of this squeeze, but then were in a system where the fed is being wagged by the dog a bit too hard for my tastes.

        So, what’s the actual goal?

        Well, when the fed lowers rates, it not only increases the supply of credit, but lowers the cost of borrowing money from the banks. This means that, in the presence of lower rates, investments that would normally not be worth it suddenly become way more appealing – if I have a project that I expect 3% returns on and I can only get a loan at 2.9%, it might not be worth it. If I can get a loan for 1.5%, suddenly it might be worth pursuing (I realize this is an overly simple example).

        So, instead of [whatever things they were going to do] I’d change it to [increases the range of things that are worth doing].

    • baconbits9 says:

      I’m replying later here, so to note what is obvious now- the Markets aren’t holding even with the rate cut.

      This post doesn’t address the basic issue, which is that the market EXPECTED this rate cut in advance, the recovery that occurred was basically only with the given of substantial CB action.

      The other issue is that you can’t look at the stock market alone, bond yields are way down and the curve was heavily inverted. If the Fed didn’t cut rates then the curve would likely remain inverted or invert further. The Fed is not in control of markets, the markets dictate fed action.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Fuck the fed, honestly. Inflation isn’t departing from baseline. Unemployment isn’t departing from baseline – yet – and if it does it won’t be because companies are cash-strapped. Pumping the stock market is not within the Fed’s remit. Stonks sometimes go down.

      (Yes I am a salty bear. Everything since December 2018 has been stupid.)

      • Cliff says:

        Inflation expectations are departing from baseline. If you wait until unemployment has started climbing you’re way behind the curve. Financial markets do a good job of quickly taking stock of new information and predicting how it will affect the economy, so generally market action is a very good source of information about inflation expectations and the import of recent developments.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Is there any reason to believe that the treasury-TIPS gap doesn’t reflect inflation expectations, but rather increased uncertainty about CPI growth or a treasury demand shock? The gap went negative in 2008 but we sure didn’t get deflation.

          • Loriot says:

            Europe got deflation. Luckily our government at the time was less incompetent than Europe’s, but the markets had no way to know that at the time or how bad things would actually be.

    • BBA says:

      We’ve been overdue for a recession for a couple of years now. If anyone else were President, the Fed would insist on maintaining its independence and keeping rates up, the political branches would back down in the face of incomprehensible econobabble, and the recession would’ve started already. But Trump knows nothing of central bank independence, so he’s been able to bully the Fed into compliance and so the economy has continued to grow encouraged by low interest rates. The current scare over COVID will just be a hiccup and growth will continue until at least noon on January 20, 2025.

      [Epistemic status: convinced Trump has the cheat codes to reality]

      • The Nybbler says:

        [Epistemic status: convinced Trump has the cheat codes to reality]

        Have you read the various Known Space books by Larry Niven? One of the interesting points about them is the aggressive tiger-like aliens, the Kzin, keep losing to the rather less aggressive (at the start, pacifist) Men. And there’s a religion, called Kdaptism, that some of the Kzin (not very well-liked by most Kzin) have come up with. The distinguishing feature of this religion is it holds that God made Man in his own image. Man, not Kzin.

        I think you’re working on the political equivalent to Kdaptism.

      • Loriot says:

        If Trump actually had cheat codes, the world would look like a very different place. If anything, it’s notable how many high profile failures he’s had that any normal politician would have avoided. Remember the humiliating government shutdown battle?

        • fibio says:

          Maybe he’s doing a Brozeman run.

        • BBA says:

          Actually, no. I had forgotten completely about the shutdown until you mentioned it. For such a “high-profile failure”, it had no impact on anything at all… except for leading to the ridiculous plan to divert military funds for border wall construction. And that ridiculous plan is working so far, so yeah, cheat codes.

          • Loriot says:

            But Trump could have pulled the military fund diversion at any time. A world where Trump actually had cheat codes would have meant either winning the shutdown battle or not having it in the first place.

          • BBA says:

            If he were that good at this game, he wouldn’t need to cheat.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        All the western central banks have been overly hawkish for decades now, crippling growth in the advanced economies. Trump leaning on the fed is, indeed the one correct thing he has done.
        However, monetary supply expansion leads to growth by mobilizing idle labor and idle machinery. I.. kind of dont see any way it is going to help when the problem is a severe disruption to the global supply chains – Chinese industrial output is down because the ccp is rightly focused on dealing with the epidemic, which is going to fuck up supply chains something fierce. Is there really a whole bunch of industrial workers and cnc machines standing idle in the US ready to pick up that slack? Because if not, this rate cut will mainly be inflationary until the epidemic abates.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If anyone else were President, the Fed would insist on maintaining its independence and keeping rates up

        This seems unlikely. The Fed started cutting rates in mid 2007 (August iirc) and UE was at a 7-8 year low and was basically flat, the recession wouldn’t start for another quarter (and not be recognized for another year) and markets were near highs.

        The Fed cuts rates prior to recessions regularly, this cut was a surprise only because it came between meetings, and there is no real reason for them to say they will make a cut at their next meeting and then sit on it with turmoil around them.

      • Baeraad says:

        [Epistemic status: convinced Trump has the cheat codes to reality]

        I desperately want to believe that you’re wrong, but depressingly enough I can’t think of any data that doesn’t actively support your theory…

        • Loriot says:

          As I pointed out above, Trump has made a lot of unforced errors, and been through things he would have rather avoided. This world does not look like one where Trump gets everything he wants, thank god.

          If Trump actually had cheat codes, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. He would be Emperor for Life with a 100% approval rating.

          • Controls Freak says:

            From my game-playing days, cheat codes wouldn’t magically accomplish everything for you. You’d get more money, better equipment, more health/lives. If you’re playing Sim City, you don’t magically have a fully-awesome city that is perfect; if you’re playing Zelda, you aren’t magically transported to final dungeon with the boss (nearly?) already slain. You still have to go do those things. You’re just extremely well-equipped to do them and even more resilient to failures. But you can certainly still fail (multiple times) in trying to do it. Good thing you’ve got extra money, so you can just bulldoze that neighborhood and start over… or extra lives so that you can just try again rather than having to go back to the start.

            (Literally no thoughts on whether Trump has anything like this. Except, “That’s kind of an absurd question.”)

          • Randy M says:

            Starting Simcity knowing the cheat codes changes it from a game to something of an art project.

  11. Thegnskald says:

    Content warning: Crackpot physics

    There’s an idea I’ve been tossing around for a while, that Lorentz Contraction causes motion, rather than the other way around. This sounds like nonsense when you know what Lorentz Contraction is, but I think I have found a formulation which may make it sound less like nonsense, and more like something trivially obvious:

    If we take the velocity vector of an object at rest as [0,0,0,c] – that is, an object at rest is moving at the speed of light through time – Terrell-Penrose rotation, considered as a rotation rather than an optical effect, is sufficient to get motion through time. (The implications with regard to time dilation are both obvious and possibly wrong, but I haven’t finished sorting through that stuff yet.)

    Left unexplained is why objects move through time at all, although if we take that as axiomatic in nature, we reduce velocity to a question of geometry. Also it is very tempting to drop relativity when thinking in these terms, but that would be a mistake.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      >Left unexplained is why objects move through time at all,

      Objects move through time because they are in a gravity field. Take an object outside of gravity, and it appears infinitely fast to observers inside gravity. In other words, the object becomes a uniform distribution when unaffected by gravity.

      This also explains the beginning of the universe as the point when gravity came into existence. Gravity appeared, and brought time with it. Matter appeared as a random sampling of the probability distribution. Inflation was the transition from everything happening infinitely fast to having a finite (and variable) progression of time.

      • broblawsky says:

        Why do photons have a defined speed, rather than infinite speed, if they’re massless and therefore unaffected by gravity?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          if they’re massless and therefore unaffected by gravity?

          They are affected by gravity. That’s what Einstein predicted, and was shown to be correct when astronomers were able to observe a star that was behind the sun but seemed to be right next to the sun. The sun’s gravity bent space-time and the photons from the distant star followed the bend and were therefore visible to us.

          • broblawsky says:

            Oh, of course they are. That was a pretty stupid question on my part.

          • Ketil says:

            They are affected by gravity, but they don’t cause gravity, having no mass. Maybe that is the main difference between the classical (Newtonian) view of gravity as a force depending on masses, and relativistic gravity, where mass bends space? If one of the m’s in Newton’s gmM/r² is zero, the force would be zero, but this is not actually the case, at least not for photons.

            We had a discussion here that mentioned the possibility of antimatter having negative mass, not sure how that concluded, but there doesn’t seem to me to be any principled objection to causing negative curvature. Under Newton, a negative mass would repel a positive mass, but attract other negative mass. Under relativity, negative masses would repel both negative and positive mass (thus explaining why we don’t see clumps of antimatter). On small (particle) scale, other forces dominate anyway.

            Disclaimer: all just conjecture based on weakly grasped high-school physics now fallow and long forgotten. Please educate me as you see fit.

            ETA: Just occurred to me that curvature doesn’t explain attraction. My mind always wants to present this as a 2D pool table with depressions representing gravity, but this model requires, eh, gravity in the z axis. I don’t think we have that in 3D space. Is this why general relativity needs bending time as well?

          • hls2003 says:


            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.” They have no mass, but they do have energy, which is the same thing. E=mc2 and whatnot. Sufficiently energetic photons generate particle-antiparticle pairs with mass, so there’s nothing about a photon which suggests its energy doesn’t warp space just like mass; it’s just that its mass-energy is extremely low in comparison to massive particles and thus its gravitational effect is generally negligible.

          • Randy M says:

            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.”

            But not very much, because they’re light.

          • John Schilling says:

            They are affected by gravity, but they don’t cause gravity, having no mass.

            Photons have no rest mass, but that is a mathematical curiosity given that photons are never at rest. Any photon with finite energy has mass equal to E/C^2, and this is real mass that creates real gravity in proper relativistic fashion.

            You can even, theoretically, make a black hole by just focusing so much light into such a small area that the photons cannot escape their own combined gravity.

            ETA: Ninja’d by hls2003

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.”

            But not very much, because they’re light.

            Thank you, I laughed out loud at this one.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Setting aside that I don’t really agree with jermo’s explanation, the speed of light is fascinating in that no matter what value it “really” has in the universe, I am reasonably certain we would measure it the same. Double the speed of light? We measure it the same. Halve it? We measure it the same. Our perception of time is defined by the rate of processes which are limited by the speed of light, so any change to that speed results in a change to our perception of time such that the apparent speed remains constant.

          Mind, I’m not certain if this is true in conventional physics, but I’m reasonably certain it is true about reality.

          Which implies that the speed of light might be a particular kind of infinity in which portions of that infinity remain well-defined with respect to each other; that is, half of that kind of infinity isn’t equal to a third of that kind of infinity.

          I’m unfamiliar with a mathematical definition of infinity which works that way, however; maybe the kind of infinity between whole numbers, as we can define halfway through that infinity pretty well.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Setting aside that I don’t really agree with jermo’s explanation

            Really? I thought that was just the very standard textbook explanation.

            Our perception of time is defined by the rate of processes which are limited by the speed of light, so any change to that speed results in a change to our perception of time such that the apparent speed remains constant.

            Speed is distance over time. If time changes with the speed of light such that the apparent speed remains constant, the speed of light is the observed value, by definition.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I mean on why gravity would give rise to time.

            I think you need a singularity to arrive at an infinite discrepancy in the rate of time passage; given only Earth in the universe, I’m pretty sure the rate of relative time dilation falls off with gravity, that is, approximately inversely proportional to distance. Or, to phrase that differently, Earth provides a finite (edit: squared) amount of time dilation from gravitational effects.

            I think you additionally need to posit that we are inside a singularity for gravity to give rise to time. Or posit that everything is made of singularities, maybe, I’m uncertain of that.


            Maybe it works if you use another singularity as a reference point as well. Also uncertain of that.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            > Or posit that everything is made of singularities,

            Every mass has a defined Schwarzschild radius, having the mass inside that radius doesn’t make a difference to other bodies.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It makes a difference for the existence, or nonexistent, of a point in space-time which can be used as a reference point for these purposes. The comparative time dilation of no point on or in Earth is infinite with respect to any other point in a universe in which Earth is the only source of curvature.

            And the distribution of mass certainly makes a difference to other bodies. The negative binding energy increases as radius decreases.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Also, sorry Jermo. That was Three I was disagreeing with there. I wasn’t paying close attention, my bad.

          • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

            . Double the speed of light? We measure it the same. Halve it?

            The speed of light is an artifact of human measurement units. The “real” speed is 1.

      • smocc says:

        > Take an object outside of gravity, and it appears infinitely fast to observers inside gravity.

        How in the world do you justify that statement?

        • Three Year Lurker says:

          I can’t find an equation for time rate and gravity, so I can only justify it with peculation. The gravitational redshift explanation tells us an object further from a mass ages faster than a close object. So an object infinitely far from any mass would age infinitely fast.

          • smocc says:

            So you’re using General Relativity’s predictions about gravitational time-dilation near a massive object. OK. But there’s two issues with using that to claim that gravity is what causes objects to move through time.

            The first: if you are using General Relativity to predict the behavior of objects in the presence of some massive object you also have to accept the claim that nothing is ever perfectly outside the reach of gravitational influence. So you can’t really use those equations to predict what will happen without gravity

            The second: if you use the GR framework to ask what happens in a universe with absolutely no gravity then all observers still see each other age at the same rate. No infinities at all. Time can still happen.

            Put another way, GR already supposes as an axiom that objects move through time with gravity or no. So you can’t use predictions from GR to then claim that motion through time only happens with gravity. You’d need some outside idea or axiom.

          • smocc says:

            What’s more, you don’t even get infinite time dilation for an object infinitely far away from a massive body.

            The time-dilation ratio between object at r=R and an object at r=infinity is √(1-rs/R), where rs is the Schawrzschild radius. It’s a perfectly finite ratio, except in the very special case of R=0.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            Yeah, General Relativity isn’t the right framework for it.
            If the Schwarzschild radius were somehow -1 (negative mass?), then there could be infinite time dilation.

          • smocc says:

            And you would be back to having no justification at all for your statement.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Taking the (I hope trivial) conclusion slightly further:

      If we can model the rotation as causing velocity, we can model gravity as rotating objects. If we consider a singularity in this framework, it is the point at which the applied rotation is 90°. Then the next interesting point is the point at which negative binding energy equals mass, which I think might be an applied rotation of 180°.

      Any angle greater than 90°, however, already starts to exhibit a behavior whereby space-time might be described as doubled back on itself, upside down and inside out. What’s interesting here is precisely what shape space-time takes under these conditions; in particular, I suspect it gives rise to a pseudo-dimension which is analogous to distance in many respects. I suspect this pseudo-dimension to be spiral-shaped in a complex plane.

      Still trying to work out a way to approach the math there, though. It is thus far intractable to me.

    • smocc says:

      Terrell-Penrose rotation, considered as a rotation rather than an optical effect, is sufficient to get motion through time.

      As always, how? What does it mean, precisely, to consider Terrell rotation as a rotation instead of an optical effect? The words “Terrell rotation” as commonly used mean an optical effect, so if you want to change what those words mean, you have to explain what the new meaning is in detail.

      And how, precisely, does it change the stationary trajectory C(x) = (cx,0,0,0) into the moving trajectory C'(x) = (ax,bx,0,0)?

      • Thegnskald says:

        To begin with, it means treating the rotation as reflecting reality; the object doesn’t appear to be rotated, it is rotated, and a component of the rotation is in time.

        If we do away with velocity in terms of defining the rotation, we instead construct a 4×4 matrix representing the rotation transformation. Multiplying this by a matrix representing position nets the optical effect; multiplying this by the vector of rest velocity nets a vector representing motion.

        Or, to rephrase that, if we create a matrix representing the rotation necessary to produce the optical effect, the same matrix, multiplied by rest velocity, should produce motion.

        Granted I should be framing that in terms of more generic tensors, but does that make sense?

        • smocc says:

          1. What about multiple observers? When Terrell rotation is considered as an optical effect different observers may see the same object rotated in different ways. For example consider two observers at rest with respect to each other as an object passes between them. One will see the object rotated clockwise the other will see it rotated counterclockwise. Which of these two rotations is the real one that is causing the underlying motion?

          2. A matrix necessary to produce a rotation and stretch of a 3D object is a 3×3 matrix. How do you get from the 3×3 matrix to the 4×4 matrix?

          2a. The distortion produced by Terrell rotation is non-linear in that it does not map straight lines to straight lines. So there’s not even a 3×3 matrix.

          • Thegnskald says:

            1.) All their observations are correct. The simplest way to reconcile this is just by being a little more relative.

            2.) I am considering the object to be rotated in four dimensions, not three. Part of the rotation is in time itself; observe that when they see the back of the ship, the light is older, such that a clock on the back of the ship (rotated towards them) displays an older time than a clock on the front.

            ETA: Actually I think that thinking of the rotation in terms of three dimensions might be misleading beyond this. The rotation is along the plane defined by time and the direction of motion, noting that this results in a change of distances (time and distance being equivalent) that moves the back closer than it moves the front. It isn’t really rotated towards the observer at all.

            3.) Very true. It implies curvature. If you plug a velocity into an equation that generates our 4×4 matrix, then multiply the matrix by the rest velocity vector, you don’t get exactly the same velocity back. This just ties back into treating the position of the object you see as its real position, since a straight line will be curved.

          • smocc says:

            1.) What does “just being a little more relative” mean?

            2.) What does this mean? It seems to me that all you are saying is that there is a 4×4 matrix that maps (c,0,0,0) to some other 4-vector. Which, like, yeah, it’s called a Lorentz boost. Lorentz boosts are somewhat analogous to rotations in 4-dimensional space, and you can indeed measure speed in terms of a “hyperbolic angle” that is commonly called rapidity. Is that what you are trying to get at?

          • Thegnskald says:

            1.) If we take the positions given by Terrell-Penrose rotation as real, observers in the same inertial frame won’t agree on the position, or the path, that a moving object has at a given time/takes through space-time. As far as I can tell, the position point isn’t that interesting, the path point might be.

            2.) I mean, yes. I originally framed this in terms of Lorentz Contraction, and also Terrell-Penrose rotation is derived from the equations, so the distinction doesn’t matter much to me. It’s the same thing either way. Terrell-Penrose rotation just gives a mental reference point to what I am talking about; something in which to contextualize the idea.

            In terms of the rotation matrix, it has those properties, yes. It has two additional properties:

            First, multiplied by the position, it should give Terrell-Penrose rotation (if you are careful about how you treat the time rotation).

            Second, if you consider the torque generated by tidal forces by gravity (since the near side and far side of an object experience different instantaneous force), it should be equal to the amount of four dimensional rotation applied by gravity over time.

            The latter property might be more interesting than the former property.

            (Also, it occurs to me that you need to consider relative position somehow to get the velocity to be different.)

          • smocc says:

            Now you are making concrete predictions. More problems

            > First, multiplied by the position, it should give Terrell-Penrose rotation (if you are careful about how you treat the time rotation).

            1. The Terrell-Penrose rotation isn’t a rotation, as I pointed out earlier. Rotations map straight lines to straight lines, and the Terrell “rotation” doesn’t do that. That means 1) there is no matrix that implements the Terrell-Penrose rotation, so what are you multiplying by the position vector?

            2. I have a strong hunch that the “Terrell rotation” doesn’t map uniquely to speed. That is, I bet that the amount of “rotation” depends not only on speed but on stuff observer orientation and shape (cube vs rectangle vs triangle etc.). If that’s the case then it gets really weird to claim that the amount of rotation is causing velocity because it doesn’t even uniquely map to rotation. Have you verified that this isn’t the case?

          • Thegnskald says:

            For both of these, I think we are talking at slight cross purposes.

            I don’t imagine the rotation will result in straight lines. Considering an inertial plane which is moving relative to an observer, I expect it is curved, quite considerably.

            The rotation is only a rotation when considering a single point; it can also be considered an approximate rotation when considering a small enough object.

            If that doesn’t work out to be rotation, but another phenomenon, my apologies. I struggle to translate these concepts into language, and maybe the issue is I lack the parts of the language that would enable that.

            Another prediction, although I gather it is hard to define the coordinates so as to make this a meaningful prediction, is that the force of gravity will be directed to where an object is perceived to be. This implies gravity is not spherically symmetrical from the perspective of an object moving relative to the source of the gravity. So if a spaceship is moving in a straight line (from the perspective of not-my-crackpot-stuff) past a star, at sufficiently high speeds that the star is noticeably displaced from it’s perspective, and measures gravity, the star’s apparent location and the apparent source of gravity will coincide.

            This also implies, if I am thinking about it correctly, that a moving object is constantly emitting gravitic waves from the perspective of stationary observers, and thus losing kinetic energy to the universe. (From it’s perspective, gravitic waves from the rest of the universe are slowing it down, I think.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Can’t edit even though I should be able to.

            Thinking about it some more, I think the lines are straight, in four dimensions, given simultaneity. The apparent non-straightness arises from considering the shape in three dimensions, or in four dimensions without simultaneity.

            But I am getting a null pointer when I try to explain that in greater detail. Every explanation I start is horribly wrong and misleading.

          • smocc says:

            If you want there to be a rule that gives you a 4×4 matrix given some object’s Terrell rotation there needs to be some way to quantify the amount of Terrell rotation.

            My prediction is that if you pick some rule for quantifying the amount of Terrell rotation then you will find that the amount of Terrell rotation an object has does not map uniquely to its speed.

            What do you think?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Thinking about that.

            I am pretty sure position is also necessary, but it is running through the same logic that says the line is really straight. Something about simultaneity might be important there, so it may be less the exact position, and more about the distance.

            One thing to note, my conceptualization of the rotation is constant over time for a given velocity. The object isn’t rotated about it’s center of mass, it is rotated about the observer, with the rotation in time being the piece that causes the back side of a moving object to appear to rotate towards said observer.

            However, to get velocity, given that the path curves in three dimensional space, and given that the velocity in three dimensions isn’t uniquely defined by the rotation, I think position, or possibly just distance, needs to be taken into account.

            Whether or not the velocity in four dimensions with simultaneity is uniquely defined runs into the same null-pointer section of concepts; I want to say yes, but I can’t figure out how to give a satisfactory answer why.

          • Thegnskald says:

            On further consideration, the null pointer I am running into is related to the inherent curvature of simultaneity itself.

            I still don’t know how to convey the concept there, except pointing at that curvature, and saying it is important. Because, while it maps onto Cartesian coordinates and therefore can have straight lines defined within it, I don’t think the lines are going to look straight from a three dimensional perspective. For instance, the back of a moving object appearing rotated towards an observer. I think, defined in terms of simultaneity, the lines involved there are straight. And I think the apparently curved path the object follows as it moves is likewise straight.

            Does that make sense?

          • smocc says:

            > I want to say yes, but I can’t figure out how to give a satisfactory answer why.

            You have expressed things like this in several places now.

            With respect, if you can’t figure out how to answer whether your ideas make sense or not, and you don’t express them in mathematical language, what criteria are you using to determine whether your ideas are sense or nonsense? This is a general question for you. When you have a physics idea, how do you determine if it is a good one or a bad one?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Thought experiments, basically.

            The vast majority end up rejected. Some produce empirical questions, which I investigate; sometimes, as with Rindler Coordinates, I discover new parts of the standard physics model I hadn’t been previously aware of.

            My goal is to be wrong fast. The stuff I can’t immediately invalidate, I spend more time on.

            This specific jdea originated as “What happens when gravitational fields interact”, with a context of treating gravitational fields as mass. (I say gravitational fields, but it is more like considering curvature and mass as identical). It appeared that they would each, from the other’s perspective, appear to contract, in a manner analogous to Lorentz Contraction, but with a slight asymmetry.

            I had two problems with that model; one of the problems ends up being analogous to pilot waves (under some edge cases the wave-shape of the gravitational field can split when the field and mass are the same thing), so I set that aside. The other problem was that there wasn’t a good reason for the gravitational field as a whole to maintain a particular shape. However, when I switched to thinking of it in terms of rotation, the model… snapped into place? It works. In a sense it is the same idea, in another sense I threw the old idea out in favor of a new one.

            I am skipping over a bunch of intermediate thought experiments there, validated externally against conventional physics, to verify that various steps were analogous to existing physics; the contraction arising from the interaction of gravitational fields, for instance, is normally thought of in terms of negative energy binding in conventional physics, with some disagreement in the models over the behavior of singularities, which I consider an acceptable divergence.

            So, in sum: Thought experiments, validating unexpected behaviors against more standard physics models to see whether unacceptable disagreements arise. And I try to make a mental note of the acceptable disagreements – for instance, I expect Rindler Coordinates to be curved, rather than flat, once the original impetus, causal chain, and simultaneity are considered.

          • smocc says:

            But how do you check if you are reaching the right conclusion to your thought experiments?

            What it seems like to me is that you explain some concept, I ask some thought experiments testing out the concept, and then you answer that you don’t know how to answer. Like, at what point do you stop and wonder if the whole thing doesn’t actually make any sense?

          • Thegnskald says:

            You think of different thought experiments, in some cases, and I have to consider the answer.

            In other cases, I don’t know how to translate the answer. I don’t think in words, and I don’t know how to convey some of the concepts involved; they’re not complex, they’re terribly simple, but they’re wildly different from the way other people seem to think about these things. For instance, at one point I brought up my thought experiments on Rindler Coordinates here, and was told that made no sense (not certain who I was talking to at the time); it probably didn’t. I was explaining it in terms of the update wave in gravity arising from acceleration, I think.

            Or my description of rotation-as-velocity as a hyperbolic angle. Yeah, rapidity is exactly that idea. And maybe a little bit more. I’m digging into that now, the basic idea here looks like it might be embedded in that concept, albeit without apparently noticing the velocity angle?

            As for whether my thought experiments arrive at the correct results – if they didn’t, I don’t think I would know. But the weird outcomes of the thought experiments I can develop, keep showing up in other physics, and it’d be a little bit weird from my perspective if an incorrect way of thinking about things keeps coming up with the right answers on unrelated questions.

            Granted, that isn’t evidence from your perspective; that information already exists. From my perspective, however, I have to update my priors on the new information, and at this point I am reasonably confident in this particular set of ideas.

  12. Chalid says:

    Copper has anti microbial properties. Why are copper coated door handles, sink handles, etc not more common in heavily trafficked places?

    • BBA says:

      Copper is expensive.

      • Chalid says:

        Not nearly as expensive as employee sick days and lost productivity, I would think.

        • Statismagician says:

          I haven’t looked at this specifically, but I ‘d be pretty surprised if [cases provably contracted from contact with the sorts of things amenable to being plated with copper] had more of an impact on [company/agency/school board]’s bottom line than the cost of copper-plating all that stuff. I don’t know if I buy that it does work out financially at the population level, even; copper is very, very expensive and if the unlimited-PTO semiexperiemnts are any guide people are oversupplied with sick time, at least in the kinds of industries that have enough marginal capacity to consider expensive infrastructure changes without a guaranteed ROI.

          • Chalid says:

            The copper doorknob is like $100. I don’t know much it would cost to add “polish the doorknobs hourly” to janitorial staff’s other duties – on the order of a thousand dollars per knob per year maybe, depending how thorough you have to be? Whatever it is, it’s peanuts to a big company.

            Meanwhile, in a big office you might easily have 100+ people collectively earning tens of millions of dollars a year all sharing a bathroom and a couple doors.

          • Statismagician says:

            The ‘I’ is indeed tiny for a big company, but the ‘R’ is, if not impossible to prove, then at least not proven by anything you’ve said so far – big companies are already giving out lots of paid sick leave and generally supportive of stuff like teleworking, a business case would need to show differential productivity over baseline where baseline already has significant lack built in. Also, if places I’ve worked are any guide, facility management is generally subcontracted, not in-house, and I have no idea what relationship my company’s profit margin has to our facilities people’s profit margin; what’s tiny for us is plausibly not tiny for them.

            Where this might make a difference to public health is in high-volume customer-facing businesses like retail and fast-food, where a few thousand a year in extra costs of dubious business value is not trivial to the functional financial units.

          • Chalid says:

            Paid sick leave is a cost to the company in lost revenue generation (and this can be an order of magnitude greater than the employee’s paycheck). Lost productivity even to people who aren’t sick enough to stay home is a cost to the company.

            Obviously I haven’t studied this stuff, but the business case for an antimicrobial office seems *much* more plausible than the case for having $5M art in the lobby, or having foosball tables in the breakroom, or having a really fancy coffee machine instead of a basic one, or providing free potato chips instead of charging for them in a vending machine, or paying extra for office space that has nice views, or any number of other common corporate practices which I’m guessing haven’t been rigorously studied either.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Foosball tables are an immediate need to recruit young workers. Hell, foosball tables are amateur-hour, some downtown offices have freakin’ slides that take you down a floor. Slides!

            If you aren’t a hip place to work, you’re losing employee talent, and you’re losing it right now. And there’s nothing like “right now” to motivate someone to change.

            There isn’t anything in the water supply about an anti-microbial office. However, businesses are very, very susceptible to trends. So, get yourself a Ted Talk. In a few years, everyone will be doing it.

          • Lambert says:

            > There isn’t anything in the water supply about an anti-microbial office.

            Maybe they should start adding chloroquine? 😉

          • Randy M says:

            Foosball tables are an immediate need to recruit young workers. Hell, foosball tables are amateur-hour, some downtown offices have freakin’ slides that take you down a floor. Slides!

            How young are they trying to recruit?

          • silver_swift says:

            @Randy M

            How young are they trying to recruit?

            Don’t think they need to be aiming at particularly young people for this to work. Things like foosball tables and slides in the office is mostly about signaling that you’re willing to prioritize silly fun over the usual corporate obsession with appearing professional and boring.

            I’m in my thirties and I’d love to have a slide in the office.

        • Plumber says:

          @Chalid says:

          “Not nearly as expensive as employee sick days and lost productivity, I would think”

          If employers thought in those terms it would be easier to get replacement eye protection (presuming their workman’s compensation insurance rates go up with eye injuries), since in my experience employers don’t, they don’t.

        • Clutzy says:

          But the building is rarely owned by the employer.

      • ana53294 says:

        Is it that expensive?

        Copper as a commodity is 2.6$ per pound. I don’t think you’d need more than a pound for a doorknob, so as far as materials costs go, it’s not that much. Now, manufacturing a copper doorknob may be more expensive than modern allow ones, but the price difference certainly doesn’t come from the commodity.

        • acymetric says:

          Well, you’re increasing the material cost for doorknobs and other items you’re replacing by a factor of between 2 and 5 depending on what material was currently being used, so that’s not exactly insignificant.

          Plus buildings already have doorknobs, so this would involve the cost of replacing doorknobs with even more expensive ones.

          Also, how anti-microbial is copper exactly? Are we talking 10% reduction? 50%? 100%?

          It might be worth it at 99%+ but anything under that and my guess is no. It also wouldn’t be very aesthetically pleasing in a lot of settings.

      • Ketil says:

        No it’s not, about $6 per kg. And you only need a thin layer. If copper door handles were mass produced, the cost would be negligible.

    • Nick says:

      Trads have been yelling about this for ages.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Unlined copper cookware poisons you as well, at least if you cook acidic foods in it. And it’s certainly not true that it will “NEVER lose value”, unless you use it only as decoration. With ordinary cooking and cleaning you’ll wear through it. With tin-lined copper you’ll wear through the lining first.

        • Nick says:

          I actually linked to the post below the copper pan one. But that is good to know, thanks. The trouble with relying on these threads (ETA: i.e., WrathofGnon’s threads) is that there is far too little counterpoint.

    • acymetric says:


    • Lambert says:

      Brass fittings are far from uncommon.
      But unlike 304 steel, you have to give them some brasso and elbow grease from time to time.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It would have to be brass, and solid (or at least fairly thick) brass at that; in any relevant place a thin coating would be worn through in no time. Which means the main answer is “money”.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Money as everyone has said, but don’t discount the additional money effect of maintenance. Copper needs more maintenance than equivalent steel does by a pretty significant margin.

    • Well... says:

      In addition to what others have said, most large companies install hand sanitizing stations all over the place and some also post signs in the bathroom with instructions on proper handwashing. Presumably, this eats up some of the budget the might have (hypothetically) gone toward outfitting the building with fixtures that have antimicrobial surfaces.

    • nkurz says:

      I wondered this morning why a regular HN poster had submitted an odd review of door knobs which deep within the article included the suggestion that one should consider copper-alloyed bronzes for their germicidal properties:

      “With the increasing occurrence of antibiotic-resistant germs, surface hygiene can be a concern with bronze door handles, particularly because of their naturally high frequency of use. However, bronze created from copper alloys sport bactericidal properties that can eliminate this issue almost completely, with critical studies in the U.S. and Britain revealing that bacteria on copper alloy surfaces are 99.9% eliminated after two hours at the latest.”

      Now I presume that they must also be a reader here who came across that article while researching the answer to this question. It’s nice when seemingly inexplicable random events turn out to have clear but hidden causes. Or at least when you can convince yourself that they do…

      • John Schilling says:

        However, bronze created from copper alloys sport bactericidal properties that can eliminate this issue almost completely

        As opposed to bronze created from non-copper alloys?

        • Another Throw says:

          A significant amount of “bronze” finishes on architectural accents don’t actually contain any bronze. They are “whatever is cheapest and vaguely the right color” electroplated on the normal steel piece.

      • acymetric says:

        99.9% eliminated after two hours at the latest.”

        Aren’t the doors where we are really concerned about this transmission being used quite a bit more than that? How much has been eliminated after 5 minutes?

    • ana53294 says:

      Or they could install doors that can be pushed with the foot, and thus don’t require contact with unprotected skin.

      • gudamor says:

        My local bar has one of these installed on their Men’s bathroom doors, so obviously someone is thinking about this. But that really only words for door-types that don’t latch.

  13. Ketil says:

    Fun fact: The Arctic archipelago Svalbard is under Norwegian jurisdiction, but not completely. Specifically, there is limited taxation (generally an 8% income tax) and mainland alcohol regulations don’t apply. So while on the mainland, alcohol is taxed from 100 to 400%, there is no similar alcohol tax on Svalbard. To prevent thirsty Norwegians from taking advantage of this happy fact, there is alcohol rationing, the quota being one case of beer (24×0.33l) and two bottles of hard alcohol per month. Wine is apparently less strictly regulated, probably due to the elites who write the laws wanting to curb the working class miners, but not their own more cultured consumption.

  14. johan_larson says:

    The Nebulas are a set of awards given out every year by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. The list of nominees for works from 2019 was published on Feb 20 of this year.

    Many of the short stories and novelettes are available online. Follow the links from the page I linked to.

    The novel A Memory Called Empire is among the nominees, and was mentioned on this site back in February.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Early Indo-European authority words.

    Georges Dumezil made much of Indo-European religious and/or political sovereignty being conceived as a dual category: the king (Sanskrit raja, Latin rex) and the priest (Sanskrit brahman, Latin flamen). But those are only two subdivisions of IE! What about the rest?
    Well as it happens, linguists reconstruct Common Celtic as having the noun *rixs (nominative singular), from an earlier *rig. This is represented historically by Gaulish -rix (in personal names), and ri in Old Irish, Old Breton, etc. Priests however were called druids, from dru-vid, “oak knowledge” or “Oak Veda”, which could hint at a new religion super-ceding an older one where priests were called a cognate of brahman/flamen.

    Move to Greek, though, and both the earliest word for “king”, wanax and the more familiar basileos (“leader”, of the tribe, the guild of smiths, or whatever) are believed to have no Indo-European etymology and thus belong to the pre-Greek substrate IE immigrants to the peninsula absorbed. Then “priest”, hiereos is IE, from the root hieros (“holy, sacred, consecrated” – Sanskrit has iṣirá) & -eos “masculine person”. If they ever had a term other than “holy man” that goes back to proto-Indo-European, it’s unattested.

    Now here’s a fun one: Germanic. English “king” descends from proto-Germanic kuningaz. -ingaz is a suffix meaning “descending from” and may not be Indo-European, but the first part is traced back to proto-IE *ǵenh- (“to beget, to give birth”), so a king was “descending from the family”. “Priest” in Germanic languages are reconstructed back to gudjô, god + agent noun suffix.

    This stuff is complicated.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      There are also the words for King or Emperor that come from personal names- kaiser and tsar from Caesar, and kral and коро́ль (korol’) from Karl (specifically Charlemagne).

      This led, amusingly, to the Polish and Russian word for ”rabbit” being krolik which means “little king”, as the German dialect word Kuniklin was mistakenly thought of as a diminutive of König rather than a descendant of the unrelated Latin cuniculus.

      Meanwhile, rex entered Greek in the Byzantine era as ρήγας (rigas), originally used to refer to foreign monarchs and now surviving only as the word for the king in a deck of cards.

      • Ketil says:

        There are also the words for King or Emperor

        And of course, “emperor” itself, Latin “imperator”, from the verb “impero”, to command. But you knew that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        There are also the words for King or Emperor that come from personal names- kaiser and tsar from Caesar, and kral and коро́ль (korol’) from Karl (specifically Charlemagne).

        I was going to mention the latter, which not only spread through Slavic after its 6th century AD expansion, but also became the word “king” in Lithuanian and Latvian (karalius, karalis). The other known Baltic language, Old Prussian, had rikis (a cognate of raja retaining the normal IE terminal -s?)
        I forgot another Germanic “priest” word: völva. This one needs to be mentioned because it has a cognate, Common Slavic volkhv. The Germanic is feminine, generally held to mean “wand-bearer” and having Old Norse synonyms including seiðkonaseiðr being the women’s magic Odin famously got to learn.
        This does not seem to go back to a hypothetical common ancestor of Balto-Slavic and Germanic: Baltic has Lithuanian krivis, Old Prussian krive.

    • Do you know if the Old Persian word for king “Xšâyathiya” has any connection there? It doesn’t look like it to me.

      It doesn’t seem to me like the Indo-Europeans would have strong political titles. They were steppe nomads with the Caucus Mountains as a strong barrier to any of the Middle Eastern Kings, meaning that they might not even have an understanding of “Kings” in the way we think of it. Their politics would be very decentralized and in a constant state of flux. So maybe they had a word for clan leader but I doubt it took on the kind of connotations that something like Emperor does to us. It could be replaced by a native word like basileos, which coming from a land with more contact to long settled societies, probably did have those connotations.

      • Lambert says:

        𐏋 (from which ‘Shah’ is derived) comes from PIE *tek- (to take, receive) (not to be confused with *teḱ-)

        (and last I heard, the finno-uralic (pre IE) languages didn’t have a word for ‘king’ and had to borrow them from Indo European.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do you know if the Old Persian word for king “Xšâyathiya” has any connection there? It doesn’t look like it to me.

        It seems to be related to Kšâtriya in the other branch of Indo-Iranian. Perhaps the Iranians originally had rajas but later experienced title inflation, like Mycenaean basileos getting upgraded from “group leader” to “emperor”?

        It doesn’t seem to me like the Indo-Europeans would have strong political titles. They were steppe nomads with the Caucus Mountains as a strong barrier to any of the Middle Eastern Kings, meaning that they might not even have an understanding of “Kings” in the way we think of it. Their politics would be very decentralized and in a constant state of flux. So maybe they had a word for clan leader but I doubt it took on the kind of connotations that something like Emperor does to us. It could be replaced by a native word like basileos, which coming from a land with more contact to long settled societies, probably did have those connotations.

        Steppe nomads could have complex chiefdoms, though chiefdoms do exist in a state of flux that rarely lasts beyond grandparent-grandchild.
        Being replaced by a native word when they settled down somewhere closer to long-settled societies is exactly what’s surmised for Greek. Indo-Iranian would be another good candidate in the model where the primitive Indo-Europeans swept through the BMAC and Harappan civilizations, but the evidence says otherwise (maybe they didn’t actually invade 😛 ).

        • Steppe nomads could be fairly complex but I highly doubt that the first steppe horsemen had much in the way of complexity.

          Indo-Iranian would be another good candidate in the model where the primitive Indo-Europeans swept through the BMAC and Harappan civilizations, but the evidence says otherwise (maybe they didn’t actually invade 😛 ).

          Maybe the Indo-Europeans were so dominant that fewer words survived? I don’t know much about this but I get the impression that Greeks are thought of more as a population mixture while in India, it involved more in the way of replacement(not fully of course).

    • Nick says:

      I always wonder what it’s like speaking a language where words have an etymology comprehensible to most speakers. English has borrowed from and mixed in so many languages, and especially with names of people, places, and things, they’re just weird and hard to explain.

      Like I was watching Spirited Away last night. We learn at the end that (spoilers) Haku’s real name is Kohaku; he was the spirit of the Kohaku, or “swift-flowing amber,” river. And like, okay, so his name means swift-flowing amber! Perfectly comprehensible! English names are hardly ever like this.

      • Aapje says:

        Languages tend to greatly change even without external contact, unless there is an intentional effort to preserve the language as it is.

      • Erusian says:

        This is a simplification from the Japanese. The character is Haku (白), which means white. His name is revealed to be Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi, the middle word of which is Kohaku (琥珀). You can see how 珀 has the element of 白 in it. The other element is ‘jade’ and the first letter is 琥, the first element being jade and the second being tiger. So the word means ‘Jade tiger jade white’, which translates into Amber.

        That level of abstraction basically means the experience isn’t that different from what we have in English. No average person hears the word kohaku or reads the word 琥珀 and thinks ‘jade tiger jade white’ in the same way no average person reads the word ‘heathen’ and thinks ‘a person that lives on unimproved land’ even if they understand the -en ending and the meaning of heath.

        • Nick says:

          That’s interesting, thanks. Even so, it seems to me like a Japanese speaker would hear Kohaku River and think, “Okay, the amber river.” How often can we do that in English?

          • Cliff says:

            Wouldn’t the equivalent be an American river called Amber River?

            Is your point that rivers in America don’t have names like that? Some do though, I think. Although there are a lot of Indian names on the East coast at least.

          • Erusian says:

            I’m not sure I understand your point. A Japanese person would hear “kohaku kawa” and they would think “amber river”. (A closer approximation would “electrum river” since kohaku is a somewhat archaic but recognizable way of saying amber. But this is foreshadowed in that Haku speaks in a somewhat archaic way and is dressed in a formal, quasi-archaic outfit.) But this is exactly the same as someone in English, as Cliff says.

          • Nick says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River. Or people. Or cities and towns.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River. Or people. Or cities and towns.

            A lot more would if we spoke the language of the natives that named them. Including, in some cases, Ye Olde Englishe.

            edit: Also, some people do have names like “Amber River.” That even only marginally signals hippy chick at this point. 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River.

            I was going to quote Irish rivers at you but yeah, the only one that is English words is the river Blackwater.

            Well, if we’re talking river names and a song about rivers, here you go!

            Bathe me in the waters of the Lagan, of the Boyne
            Of the Liffey, of the Slaney, of the Barrow, Nore and Suir
            Of the Blackwater, the Bann, the Lee, the Shannon, Foyle and Erne
            Bathe me in the waters

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            Idaho has quite a few rivers with names that are quite legible, although no shortage of French and a smattering of native. Maybe it’s a western thing.

            Clearwater River
            Salmon River
            Priest River
            Snake River
            Big Dick Creek
            Battle Creek
            Pack River
            Raft River

            And my favorites The Big Lost River and the Little Lost River, which disappear and sink into the ground at the aptly named Big Lost River Sinks.

          • Erusian says:

            Not all Japanese names are comprehensible, but the main reason is top down control and being relatively recent. Because it’s a character language, towns can’t keep arbitrary characters around and the Japanese government will force them to change their name if it falls outside of the syllablery.

            This means every name is always made up of relatively modern characters, even if they had to change those characters over time. America, for example, is often called Beikoku. Which in kanji means ‘rice country’. This is because the full name is “Aibeirika Koku”, which is nonsense. If I were to translate its kanji then it would mean something like, “Lower Ranking Adding Rice Wealth Country.” But it really is nonsense and no one thinks of it when they see the word. The point is that Aiberika sounds like ‘America’.

            For domestic names, people tend to choose more symbolic names.

          • Lambert says:

            Counterpoint: everywhere in New Zealand.
            Southland? In the south.
            Northland? In the North.
            Fiordland? Full of fjords.
            90 Mile Beach? Someone didn’t bring a tape measure. Actually 55 mi long.
            Bay of Islands? There’s a buttload of islands.
            One Tree Hill? Kind of complicated due to Western/Maori relations but used to have a single pohutukawa on top.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure there’s about a billion “White River”s in the US. OK, USGS gives only 290. 66 “Yellow River”s. 304 “Black River”s. Lots of other color rivers. But it turns out the people who named American places were some of the least creative people ever: More than 2000 “Mill Creek”s.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            One interesting thing I find about same-named rivers is that they’re relatively minor – with two exceptions.

            I looked up “Yellow River” in Wikipedia and found four in the US that one could call “major”, ranging from 56 to 118 miles in length. Those four are all in widely separated parts of the US. “Black River” has even more US entries, but they seem to be mostly smaller tributaries. The biggest I found was about 125 miles long, in New York.

            Some states have multiple rivers with the same name. But they tend not to be major waterways, and unlikely to come up in the same situations.

            The biggest two same-named US rivers were known to me since childhood – the 1450-mile Colorado of Grand Canyon fame, and the 860-mile Colorado that runs through Austin, Texas.

          • helloo says:

            Uh what about the one in China? The one that you get when you search for Yellow River in Wikipedia? And is the sixth largest in the world as listed on that page?

    • Erusian says:

      While flamen and brahmin seem related, they’re likely not. Brahmin appears to derive from a term meaning ‘elevated’, making its closest English cognate the -burg ending for city or the term barrow. Flamen, meanwhile, has an old Latin suffix (-men) that means ‘that which is produced by’. So, for example, flumen means ‘that which is produced by flu’, with flu in this case being ‘flow’. It meant river but it literally meant, ‘that which is produced by flowing’.

      Exactly what the fla part of flamen is has some debate: it could mean breathing or shining/burning or some other word we don’t recognize

      Basileos is almost certainly from pre-Greek substrate, with it being a minority position that it has PIE origins. However, anax might have Indo-European origins. There’s a significant substrate school of thought but there are also people who compare it to some other PIE terms. In particular, there’s a word attested elsewhere (wenag) that means something like, ‘provider of wealth’ that would work as an etymological origin. The term appears to have meant something like a lord, such as being used to refer to Indra, but by later periods apparently had transformed to mean merchants.

      Hieros, meanwhile, pretty straightforwardly means ‘holy person’. However, interestingly its root elsewhere shows association with fire. Likewise, fla could mean ‘burning’, which implies at least some parts of PIE had a strong association of fire and spirituality. If so, we see echoes of this with how central burning is to sacrifices in Greece to the fire temples of Persia.

    • Bergil says:

      Isn’t “reign” is the English equivalent of raja/rex/rix?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        More or less, just not inherited Germanic.
        Latin reg-num -> Old French reigne -> reign in 12th century (Middle) English.

  16. The Pachyderminator says:

    Girl scout cookies, ranked. Not comprehensive, including only the ones stocked by the Girl Scouts stationed outside the grocery store in my neighborhood. Also, I’m not considering cost or cookies per box, even though this affects my cookie buying in practice.

    0. Posthumous grand prize to the dearly departed Savannah Smiles. They had just the right crunch, just the right amount of lemon flavor, and the final touch of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness from the sugar coating. Not just my favorite Girl Scout cookie, but one of the best packaged cookies I’ve ever had. I really miss these.
    1. Do-si-dos. A good peanut butter sandwich cookie. I realize many people aren’t as enthusiastic about peanut butter as I am, but I’m into these the way most people are into Oreos.
    2. Trefoils. The most underrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing fancy, just a good solid shortbread cookie. A simple and wonderful thing, like a smile or a kiss.
    3. Tagalongs. Yes, peanut butter again, this time in a rich, seductive combination with chocolate. If the Do-si-dos are the fair youth of Shakespeare’s sonnets, these are the dark lady. You can eat a whole box if you don’t watch yourself, but then you’ll regret it.
    4. Thin Mints. These are the most overrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing objectionable, but really pretty mediocre as mint-flavored sweets go. Junior Mints hit the spot much better, if that’s the spot you want to hit.
    5. Toffee-tastic. Inferior in texture to the Trefoils, but the toffee flavor provides some welcome variety and a note of sophistication.
    6. Lemon-Ups. Quite frankly, these are weak. The lemon flavor is faint and nothing else about the cookie is interesting. An absolutely pathetic attempt at a substitute for the Savannah Smiles.
    7. Samoas. I know some people love these. Coconut and caramel just isn’t my thing. Like First Friday novenas or tabletop war games, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these, but they’re not for me.

    I believe Girl Scout cookies are standardized in the US, but no idea what the cookie situation is in other countries. Any reports from the foreign cookie scene would be interesting.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Having never seen much less tasted a girl scout cookie, none of these sounds any good from the description except the shortbread one.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      The Thanks a Lot, which is a large cookie with a layer of chocolate on the bottom, and which you can juuuuuuust barely eat in one bite

    • acymetric says:

      1. Thin mints (from the freezer)
      2. Thin mints (room temperature)
      3. Lemonades (significantly better than Lemon-Ups)
      3. Tagalongs
      4. Do-si-dos
      5. Toffee-tastic

      If I’m ever in the mood for a Trefoil I’ll just eat a slice of plain bread. I’m with you on Samoas, but I hate coconut (the texture, not the flavor).

    • gbdub says:

      The holy trinity of Girl Scout cookies are thin mints, Tagalongs, and Samoas. They are the tastiest, but also the most unique.

      The draw of Girl Scout cookies is not that they are superlative cookies, it’s that they are pretty good cookies that are only seasonally available, with extra Brownie points for nostalgia and the charitable aspect.

      Trefoils can’t be the best, because they aren’t unique. Store bought shortbread cookie is a flavor you can get all the time, anywhere. (Do-si-dos, maybe, but they aren’t better enough compared to Nutter Butter)

    • Aftagley says:

      4. Thin Mints. These are the most overrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing objectionable, but really pretty mediocre as mint-flavored sweets go. Junior Mints hit the spot much better, if that’s the spot you want to hit.

      I love the flavor of mint, and Thin Mints (and their derivatives) are pretty much the only mint-influenced pastry that exists (to my knowledge). They’ve got a perfectly balanced mint taste, the chocolate is actually kind of bitter and unlike junior mints or most other mint-related confections, they aren’t too sweet.

      My rankings mirror acymetrics –
      1. Thin mints (cold)
      2. thin mints (room temp)
      3. Samoas
      4. Thin mints (any other temperature)

      • acymetric says:

        I wish I could remember who told me I should freeze my Thin Mints for best results so that I could call them and tell them I love them.

        Unless it was an ex-girlfriend, in which case “so long, and thanks for all the [thin mint related advice]”.

    • JayT says:

      They are all in 7th. I find them all to be garbage. Their chocolate is waxy, their caramel only tastes like “sweet”, and their cookies are mediocre. The only thing worse than the traditional Girl Scout cookies is that gluten free Girl Scout cookie I tried last year.

  17. Vermillion says:

    Science fiction. Why bother? What good has it ever done in the real world?

    Helped prevent global thermonuclear war for one.

    • I would definitely watch a movie where aliens invade in the 80’s and Reagan and Gorbachev team up to take them down.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        *Bob Dylan music plays softly in the background*

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Reagan will need to be in a wifebeater and a cowboy hat, toting an M16 with pistol sidearm. Gorbachev will of course require a ushanka, but also a sleeveless denim vest. And a minigun.

        Special cameo appearance by Miguel de la Madrid in a poncho, bolero, and custom revolvers.

      • Lambert says:

        The sort of movie where people are still wearing clothes after the 5:00 mark or…

  18. Tenacious D says:

    In the last integer OT, there was an interesting discussion on neopaganism in Russia, including the extent to which adherents were hippies playing in the woods versus blood-and-soil ultranationalists. It sounded like the latter were the dominant variety in Russia. What about elsewhere? Does the same split apply?

    • metacelsus says:

      Norse mythology is often used by white nationalist groups in the USA. See

    • a real dog says:

      In Central Europe neopaganism is certainly a blood-and-soil traditional thing, I’d expect Russia to be similar. The hippies stick to whatever bastardization of Indian culture they’ve found on the internets.

      Some of the broad aesthethic is agreeable to both, so sometimes you can see the worlds collide on various conventions… a guy speaking about a machine to shut off Jewish psychic influence interviewed by a guy who believes he’s a reincarnation of a Slavic warlord, followed by workshops by a chakra healing namaste lady.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I actually knew someone growing up who was an Esoteric Hitlerist, which was a particularly batshit concoction of Theosophy, Neopaganism, Hinduism (seen through a glass, darkly), and most curiously to me at least Christian Gnosticism. I’m sure he would have found much to enjoy in that hypothetical interview.

        As you might imagine he was not what you would call well.

        • a real dog says:

          It’s not quite hypothethical – the left guy builds anti-Jew machines using a dowsing rod, the right guy calls himself “king of Lechia”. Both are kind of a spectator sport for the local internet.

      • Deiseach says:

        The hippies stick to whatever bastardization of Indian culture they’ve found on the internets.

        I wish.

        If I see one more Wiccan/neo-Pagan/whatever tootling about how she (and it always is a she) is setting up an altar to the Morrigan/is taking the Morrigan as her patron goddess, I’ll go “You feffing well deserve what’s gonna happen in your life after this” *insert grumpy face here*

        most curiously to me at least Christian Gnosticism

        Mmmm, well if we’re talking some kind of German influence, Anthroposophism has a lot of weird beliefs regarding Christ so that fits in with it. If you care to plough through this lecture by Rudolph Steiner, you’ll see what I mean:

        Through spiritual science we are thus led to a vision of Christ not based upon the Gospels. Through spiritual science we can perceive that in the course of history Christ entered the evolution of humanity, and we know that He had once to live in a human being so that He could find a path leading through a human being into the spiritual atmosphere of the earth.

        Spiritual research thus leads us to Christ, and through Christ to the historical Jesus. It does this at a time when external investigation, based upon external documents, so often questions the historical existence of Jesus.

        …From a spiritual contemplation of the whole evolution of humanity we can, through spiritual science, come to a recognition of Christ, and through Christ’s own nature we can recognize that He once must have lived in a human body. Spiritual-scientific investigation necessarily leads to the historical Jesus. Indeed, it is possible to indicate with mathematical precision when Christ must have lived in the man Jesus, in the historical Jesus. Just as it is possible to understand external mechanical forces through mathematics, so is it possible to understand Jesus by regarding history with a spiritual vision that encompasses Christ. That Being Who lived in Jesus from his thirtieth to thirty-third years gave the impulse humanity needed for its development at a time when its youthful forces were beginning to decline.

        This book (or series of lectures) is even wackier. We get both Lemuria and Atlantis!

        • FrankistGeorgist says:


          Atlantis and Lemuria were indeed part of his cosmology, with Lemurians being the progeniter of the Han Chinese and Atlantis… the Greeks and Romans I think? Both were beneath the Hyperborean Aryans. So far as I can tell this is the part that came from Theosophy but with the seed races bit recast. Now they’re two and a half master races collaborating to conquer/manage the Earth instead of ancestors of each other.

          The Gnostic aspect though was a sort of bare-bones Platonic recasting of the Bible:
          a) the God of the Old Testament is real and as described, but a demiurge, only controlling the physical world (thus nothing outside of it like hyperboreans or lemurians who came from [input not found])
          b) the Jews are his chosen people, which I guess dovetails with the whole “control the world” thing
          and the part that really kills me
          c) the Prophets were truly Prophets and Jewish people retain the ability to see the future because of their relationship to the Demiurge (which honestly sounded like a pretty good gig to me) again explaining the alleged “control the world” thing

          I’ll be honest we didn’t get into the nature of Christ in our discussions (by which I mean him ranting at me while I was trying to play video games with his sons), except that Jesus was Hyperborean and proof that Hyperboreans could come out of their human forms. Sort of anthroposophist if you squint, but frankly the whole thing is only something if you squint.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for all the replies.

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Only in Japan(?) could a major corporation be this flippant about Christianity.

  20. Clutzy says:

    The fact that you know Julian Castro’s name means it was a success. The guy was a nobody and now hes a kindabody.

  21. Mark V Anderson says:

    This is the second book on intelligence that I read.

    Emotional Intelligence (2018) By Michael Carron

    I was looking for a book that talked about things outside of IQ that affected success in life, and I think Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is so touted. I think the seminal book on this was written in the 1990’s, but I wanted a more current book with up-to-date research, so I bought this one. Unfortunately I made a pretty bad choice in this book.
    It turns out this is mostly a self help book. But mostly I wanted to know what is meant by Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which is here. It seems to be a combination of controlling one’s own emotions and understanding others’ emotions. I’m not sure why those two pieces are combined, since they are quite different skills. But it is true that both skills are not the same as IQ, and both are needed to succeed in life.

    Even as a self help book, this is so so. He has a lot of good ideas, but it is shallow. Two examples: 1) He discusses personal space issues, and lists the distance you should be from others for various interactions. He never mentions that this distance will vary widely in other cultures outside the US. 2) He has a chapter explaining how to judge body language to determine if someone is lying. But he never mentions that this will yield a lot of false negatives and false positives. Good liars won’t have these mannerisms. People who are nervous might well have them even when speaking truthfully.

    • Matt M says:

      But it is true that both skills are not the same as IQ, and both are needed to succeed in life.

      Of course, the relevant question is not whether such a skill is “the same” as g, but whether it is correlated with g or not.

      “EQ” is only valid as a concept if we can comfortably state that it has no correlation whatsoever with g. Popular wisdom, of course, is that it has a negative correlation with g, which would be even harder to prove…

      • albatross11 says:

        It could be useful even if it had a large correlation with g, as long as we were convinced that it had some predictive value on stuff we cared about even after accounting for g. I care about my doctor having a medical degree even after accounting for her general intelligence, and swapping her out for a smarter person with no medical training would probably not make me better off.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Of course, the relevant question is not whether such a skill is “the same” as g, but whether it is correlated with g or not.

        This is certainly not true. I think EQ has a small positive correlation with g. This is just because pretty much all skills correlate with g. I think athletic ability correlates slightly with g, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth looking at physical abilities separate from intelligence.

        I think the correlation of EQ with g is low enough that it is worth looking at separately. Just reading SSC I see many folks who rate their social skills rather low. Now that probably just means that smart folks are used to being on the top of the cognitive scale, so being medium feels like a big drop. But the variance with IQ is high enough, and EQ important enough, that it makes sense to look at it separately.

    • aristides says:

      It seems to be a combination of controlling one’s own emotions and understanding others’ emotions. I’m not sure why those two pieces are combined, since they are quite different skills.

      IQ is often separated into mathematics skill and verbal skill. Those are two different skills, but are correlated enough that IQ is a useful concept. That is a good way to think of EQ and empathy and emotional control.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah but I rather doubt those two are correlated. Maybe I am typical minding, but for me at least, I am very good at controlling my own emotions, but suck at understanding others’. My instinctual thought is that the two skills would have an inverse correlation.

      • albatross11 says:

        Success at almost any mentally demanding task is going to be correlated with IQ. But it may still be useful to measure in addition to IQ, if it gives you more information than IQ alone.

        Income is also positively correlated with IQ, but if you’re extending me a loan, you’d probably like to know my income along with (or instead of) my IQ.

  22. Canyon Fern says:

    Presenting: Slate Star Showdex, Act 2, Episode 1.

    [Missed Act 1? Catch up now: Episode 1; Episode 2; Episode 3; Episode 4]
    Two days after the events of Act 1:

    In the California city of San Jose, all is dreary fog. The fog is not inviting. It offers no handbills, no pinwheels, no electric lights, no scantily-clad ladies. All it offers is a challenge.

    “Come and try me,” it says. “I’ll soak you good.”

    Only one man could brave this fog without flinching. Only one man, with the patience of stone itself, could venture out into this Satanic soup. Only one man, lit by an unquenchable inner fire, could look this fog in the face, hear its challenge, grit his teeth, and say:

    “Go soak an egg.”

    Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander, the indefatigable doctor-investigator, stares coolly at the cluster of buildings before him. The fog, robbed of its fun, curls listlessly around each one in turn.

    General Intelligence. The largest and most prestigious research corporation in America. Home to the world’s brightest intellects, its biggest brains, its boldest visionaries. One of these visionaries, Eliezer Yudkowsky, is known far and wide for his work on electromechanical calculation. Nearly a fortnight has passed since this great man went missing under mysterious circumstances.

    Nearly three days have passed since Slate Alexander brought him back.

    The Man of Slate pulls his gray fedora low on his head, and cinches the belt of his gray trenchcoat. A bulge at his waist, no larger than a harvest mouse, is the only sign of his trusty revolver.

    Scott “Slate” Alexander approaches Building B. The fog sees him, and it fears him, and it soaks itself.
    “Scott! My good man!”

    Eliezer Yudkowsky, radiating pure delight, shakes Scott’s hand and claps him on the back. “It’s so lovely to see you without any lizardmen around.”

    “Likewise,” Scott says, “but with any luck I’ll be getting my hands on a certain lizardman any day now. Spliggo Hiss is still out there.”

    Eliezer grimaces at the name. “I imagine that’s why you’re here?”

    Scott nods. “I know all about your kidnapping, and your imprisonment, but I’m still in the dark about that crate,” he says. On the nearest workbench sits the small crate recovered from Hiss’s room at the Hotel El Dorado.

    “Of course,” says Eliezer. “Let me give you a closer look.” He walks to the workbench, lifts the lid off the crate, and motions Scott over.

    Behind Scott, the door to the lab bangs open. Half a dozen researchers fight to be the first one inside.

    “Dr. Alexander!” one of them shouts.

    Scott ignores the shout. He peers inside the crate.


    “I notice I am confused,” Scott says.

    Something jabs Scott in the small of the back. “Howzabout I clear things up for ya?”

    The imperturbable doctor-investigator whirls on the spot. The researchers stand in a loose gaggle. All assembled — save one — wear natty suits, ID badges, and big smiles.

    The odd man out is three feet tall if he’s an inch. He wears a black suit with white pinstripes, and a pinky ring with a sapphire the size of an eyeball. His eyes are beady, his nose is squashed, and his frown is the frown of a liquorless clown. In his right hand, the pinky-ring hand, he carries a black-lacquered cane.

    Scott blinks. Still confused. “I’m Dr. Scott Alexander, here in my capacity as a private investigator. I was the one who stormed Hiss’s hotel room and–”

    “Can it, bub!” The little man waves his cane. “I know all about your bozo stunt! I was there!”

    “Do you mean … you were in that box?”

    The man cackles. “Got it in one, bub!” He twirls the cane through the air and into his left hand. With his right hand newly empty, he spits into his palm, and offers Scott a handshake.

    Slowly, like a sloth ascending Everest, Scott shakes the spitty hand.

    “Tremendous Value, at your service!”

    Scott comes dangerously close to being flapped. Tremendous Value’s frown inverts into a genuine smile.

    “Forget ‘bozo,’ pal. That stunt of yours was ballsy,” says Tremendous Value. “All I can say is it’s a crying shame you didn’t shoot Hiss dead! I should never have trusted that overgrown gecko!”

    Slate Alexander dips his hand into the inner pocket of his trenchcoat, but the pocket is curiously empty.

    Eliezer senses an opening. “Scott, let me introduce you to everyone.” He goes around, naming names, but though Scott’s hand performs further handshakes, his mind is elsewhere.

    Between Tremendous Value and Navy Suit, Hiss’s trail might not be so cold after all.

    ” … and finally, this is Dr. Falkovich, who came all the way from British Palestine to establish our Center for Numeric Lovemaking!”

    Dr. Falkovich smirks harder than any human being in recorded history.
    Lunchtime. Food o’clock. The eating hour.

    The canteen at General Intelligence boasts a marvel of modern mechanics. The room itself is filled with iron tables, powder-coated blue, with cushioned benches — but there’s nothing special about those. What’s special is the chef.

    Scott, following the others’ lead, takes a punch card from a box by the door. The card has a grid of nine squares printed on it. Scott contemplates the menu board.

    PLEASING EGG. #100.
    A NICE SALAD. #300.

    COFFEE. #010.
    TEA. #020.

    MEALSQUARE. #003.

    Scott plucks a gleaming hole punch from its hook below the menu. He punches the first and third squares in the card’s first column, and all three squares in the third. On the wall, a few steps past the menu board, is a slot marked “INSERT.” Scott does as it says.

    There is a pneumatic flormp. A panel in the wall instantly slides upward, revealing a terrier-sized square tunnel to parts unknown. In the mouth of the tunnel rests a blue tray, which bears three white ceramic plates. On the first plate is an unshelled hardboiled egg completely devoid of unsightly dimples, surrounded by elegant rosettes of horseradish sauce. On the second plate is a generous pile of mixed greens, tomato slices, curls of bell pepper, radish rounds, and slivers of carrot, all shining with pungent vinegary dressing. On the third plate are three tiny, tented placards, perfectly identical.

    The placards have writing on them, in ink still wet. Each one reads, in a flawless serifed hand: “APOLOGIES. OUT OF #003.”

    Scott sighs as he picks up his PLEASING EGG and NICE SALAD. Having turned around and located Tremendous Value, Scott seats himself opposite the crime lord, stares vacantly at his tray, and is not at all pleased.

    “Look, Mr. Value,” the Man of Slate says. “I’ve got to be on my way. Anything you know about Hiss would be of, uh, stupendous worth.”

    Tremendous Value cackles. “Just a moment, Mr. Private Eye.” He uses both hands to scoop YOUR FRIEND THE MEATLOAF into and onto his face.

    Unf. Smleck. Gronch. “Aaah.” The beady-eyed dwarf looks up at Scott, meat dripping from his nose. “These eggheads don’t know how good they have it.” He wipes his hand across his face.

    “Listen, bub. That slimy scumbag Spliggo Hiss approached my gang to arrange a deal for a smorgasbord of high-tech gadgetry. When my men reported the price Hiss offered, I got suspicious — too suspicious for my own good. I went incognito to oversee the swap myself, posing as my most trusted capo, Confaldo. Before I could even slug anybody, Spliggo had sliced up my men with his claws, and his bozo suits were stuffing me into a box. They knew ‘Confaldo’ was a high-up henchman with a direct line to Tremendous Value himself, see?”

    “I see.”

    “After he took us by surprise, Hiss used me to put pressure on ‘Tremendous Value’ — which was actually Confaldo, pretending to be me. I’m just glad my right-hand man was brainy enough to figure out the score and play along. The two of us convinced Hiss that ‘Tremendous Value’ was crazy enough to meet Hiss in person at the El Dorado.”

    The Man of Slate decides it would be rational not to say that Value actually had been crazy enough to meet Hiss in person.

    The crime lord belches. “By the end, Hiss was pressing me for help designing his machinery. I tried to throw him off track with false information, and I think he bought it, but who knows whether he’s found the errors by now. If you hadn’t wrapped things up yourself, my gang would have busted me out of there the following day — but I would have lost a lot of good men doing it. I owe you!”

    Slate Alexander rubs his temples. “Think nothing of it, Mr. Value. You’ve been extraordinarily helpful just now.” The weary doctor-investigator stands up. “Thanks to you, the loose ends of this mystery are tightening into a hangman’s noose.”

    “You said it, Doc. Hey, don’t take off without leaving me your address. I’ll send an enforcer to thank you properly for getting me out of that lizard’s clutches!”

    “You don’t have to do that, but I’ll leave it up to you.” Scott writes his home address on a business card, and hands the card to Tremendous Value. “By the way, I’m not hungry. Help yourself to my tray.”

    “All the food in the world won’t satisfy my hunger for revenge,” says Value. “I wanna wring that lizard’s stupid neck! Making me beg and degrade myself just to keep my cover!” Meat and spittle fly from the criminal kingpin’s maw. “That two-bit turtle! That cold-blooded creep!”

    “Don’t worry, Mr. Value. I’ll make sure Spliggo Hiss gets exactly what he deserves.”

    As he leaves the canteen, Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander’s mood is foul enough to negate a thousand PLEASING EGGS.
    This episode of Slate Star Showdex brought to you by:

    “Lord, I’d love a motor ride–
    But I’ve no motor car!”
    Good sir, you need a vehicle
    That meets you where you are.
    You don’t need to own your own:
    Just pay a usage fee.
    The car will take the wheel for you,
    As safely as can be.

    “What the devil do you mean?
    Do these cars drive themselves?
    Why, next I bet you’ll say these cars
    Are serviced by your elves!”
    We don’t mind a skeptic, sir!
    That’s why the first time’s free.
    Brought to you by Ubercar,
    A Gen. Int. company!

    • Nick says:

      Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander, the indefatigable doctor-investigator, stares coolly at the cluster of buildings before him. The fog, robbed of its fun, curls listlessly around each one in turn.

      Wait—do you mean to tell me Scott managed to rob a fog bank?

      Entertaining as always!

  23. Nick says:

    SSC, how do you keep from losing digital things?

    I keep track of webpages with bookmarks and a very large browser history, but it’s never enough, because of link rot or magically disappearing history. Some of the stuff I’m more concerned about losing ends up as downloaded files or stored on the cloud. Others I track down a mostly intact copy of on the Internet Archive.

    My own files are decently organized at a low level, but disparate; I have some on Google Drive, others on Dropbox, others on Evernote, and I’m not happy with using any of these, but I don’t see an alternative. There are also files I don’t put on any of them, like those I want to be actually private, or those that would take up too much space, like bigger pdfs.

    This all works well enough, but it’s very piecemeal. There’s a chance that I could lose my hard drive. And different services offer different benefits; Dropbox promises relatively simple cloud storage of any kind of file and shareable links, while Evernote is for documents but offers tagging, formatting, and so on. I wish I had fewer better solutions here, but with how many different kinds of things I’m saving, from webpages to text documents to pdfs, that might be impractical.

    • Canyon Fern says:

      For links to favorite pages, and extra copies of one’s own thoughts, my editor, Ludovico, keeps such things on his personal website.

      To guard against hard-drive failure and other hazards, I think there’s not much for it but to have an on-site hard drive backup and an off-site hard drive backup that you swap with the on-site one at intervals, as well as online backups to as many services as you can easily use. Of course, don’t forget to test these backups regularly.

      The only techniques which I’ve found to be truly reliable for organization and non-search-based retrieval, are making folder and file names as long as I need them to be, and minimizing the depth and breadth of the folder tree on my (Ludovico’s) computer system.

    • John Schilling says:

      My own files are decently organized at a low level, but disparate; I have some on Google Drive, others on Dropbox, others on Evernote, and I’m not happy with using any of these, but I don’t see an alternative.

      My alternative to those is the flash drive that I carry just about everywhere, and holds the working copy of all files that I use at all regularly. And is mirrored on the hard drive of my main desktop machine at home, which is itself regularly backed up to an external hard drive that I keep in a safe. And periodically to [redacted] as well.

    • Basscet says:

      I have the same problem with webpages. In spite of all the data that Google is supposed to be collecting on me, their records of obvious things like my YouTube history seem to get gradually pruned over time. I guess they’re more interested in my aggregate data, but they’re still sometimes useful for tracking down videos/webpages from memory. Though like bookmarks, it requires me to stumble on the right keywords to search with. Perhaps I should just archive this stuff myself, but there’s a lot of material and I’m quite lazy.

      As for local files, it’s a mess. Spread out across a couple systems, some backed up to cloud services, others to external hard drives. It will probably bite me in the ass when something actually happens. Maybe I’ll find that some files didn’t have copies after all, or that they were buried under random folder hierarchies.

    • Lambert says:

      Everything’s on one of the many, many partitions (some LVM, some not, some with conflicting namespaces) on my external hard drive.
      Find | grep and wait.

    • lvlln says:

      I recommend the Everything application for finding stuff on your own local HDDs. It’s a very fast dumb text search of all the filenames of all the files on your filesystem, with options to limit your search to certain folders and to use wildcards.

      • Nick says:

        Huh, sounds like it does indeed promise to be very fast. Searching filenames via file explorer is so awful. It takes 0.001 seconds to search my personal files then spends three million years searching Windows files.

  24. Purplehermann says:

    Conspiracy Theory: (Israeli Politics)

    Benny Gantz and PM Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu are collaborating.

    Gantz brought Bibi’s more mainstream oppononents under him to challenge Bibi for control of the country.

    Bibi is facing charges for bribery which seem shaky as well as more minor but more likely charges. If the anti Bibi faction relented, those charges would be made toothless.

    As elections are repeated, smaller parties are failing to pass the minimum threshold needed and either combining into larger parties or disappearing. At this point all that remains are the Arab and Ultra Orthodox parties, Bibi and anti-Bibi (Gantz), and a smaller right wing and left wing party each.

    Personal relationship: Bibi appointed Gantz as Commander in Chief in 2011.

    Motivation: power. The two are also fairly close on the political spectrum. Much closer IMO than any other party is to either (aside from liberman, but he might be in on it too.)

    Realism: It only takes two, maybe three people. The whole thing would be pretty easy to do imo because of the way govt. works in Israel, the ideological differences on (in) each ‘side’ of the ‘left’ and ‘right’, and the narrow margin by which the ‘right holds power.

    The plan for the future: sqeeze out the two smaller left and right wing parties, raise the threshhold for entry (to keep new groups from coming up), dispose of the charges and take power together.


    • broblawsky says:

      Counterargument: what does Gantz get out of this? He can’t share power with Netanyahu; his supporters despise the man.

      • Purplehermann says:

        The despising issue has two main sources from what I’ve heard, both easily enough fixed.

        1) corruption. Fixed by Bibi standing trial and the major charges being found as baseless.

        2) Bibi works with the right wing and ultra-orthodox. Working with Gantz and wrecking the right parties (there used to be more..) tackles this.

        Additionally, a lot of the country that just wants the govt to be formed and this would be fine (as long as Bibi stood trial and wasn’t granted retroactive automatic immunity.

        Gantz is currently a figurehead who will mostly disappear after a while if he wins, this would be his best shot at gettting and holding on to power imo.

        • broblawsky says:

          The despising issue has two main sources from what I’ve heard, both easily enough fixed.

          1) corruption. Fixed by Bibi standing trial and the major charges being found as baseless.

          I’ll admit I’m not an expert in Israeli law, but this seems unlikely, both on the basis of multiple commentators saying that Netanyahu is pretty obviously guilty, and on the basis that Netanyahu is trying to give himself immunity to prosecution. If Netanyahu thought he could easily get exonerated, he wouldn’t bother trying to give himself immunity.

          2) Bibi works with the right wing and ultra-orthodox. Working with Gantz and wrecking the right parties (there used to be more..) tackles this.

          The core issue isn’t just right vs left, it’s over the conscription of Haredim. That isn’t going to go away just because Likud swallows the other right-wing parties. Yisrael Beteinu’s survival shows that it remains a significant scissor issue, even among the hard right.

  25. rumham says:

    I am curious if my calibration is off here.

    “There’s an Amazon distribution center that was advertising, last time I was there, up to $12.75 an hour. Your parents made that three decades ago.”

    This was discussed in the fact check this way:

    From a narrow perspective, Pocan is off — an offer of $12.75 does not equate to hourly wages from 30 years ago, as a straight comparison or with inflation factored in.

    He fares much better when considering the larger point being made: That wage growth has been largely stagnant.

    It was rated “Mostly True”. Am I wrong for thinking that is in insane rating given that anyway you look at it is false?

    • baconbits9 says:

      But the cost of everyday goods like rent, groceries and cars have outpaced that median wage growth, meaning a worker’s 1990 weekly paycheck, at a $10.43-an-hour rate, would have held more spending power than the $23.33-an-hour rate does today.

      Its just a biased site cherry picking to fit their political bent.

      • rumham says:

        I have always run on the assumption that this will always be true, but this one seems more egregious than the vast majority.

      • Plumber says:

        The union hourly rate for a Journeyman plumber in 1999 (when I was accepted to be an indentured apprentice) in Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara,
        and San Mateo counties (where I’ve worked) wasn’t much less then than it is today, meanwhile the median price for a house has gone up more than 6x, so if anything the price increases relative to wages seem understated to me (and “unusual area” doesn’t cut it for me when the “unusual area” is where I was born and have everywhere lived for 99% of my life, with housing in Seattle, where my wife grew up, having a similarly rise relative to wages, that prices in “There Be Dragons” may be cheaper doesn’t change what I see everywhere within a hundred miles of all I know).

        I believe my eyes.

        • Skeptic says:

          You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners. If the government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply, then it’s apples to oranges.

          To compare apples to apples, you need a basket of goods or services with relatively constant quality or adjustable quality.

          Hours worked per calorie?
          Hours worked per furniture set?
          Hours worked per mile driven (gasoline plus depreciation)?

          • Plumber says:

            @Skeptic says: “You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners. If the government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply, then it’s apples to oranges.

            To compare apples to apples, you need a basket of goods or services with relatively constant quality or adjustable quality.

            Hours worked per calorie?”

            Beans (on sale) aren’t much more now than what they were then, milk is usually 3.5x what it was then, and a cartoon of eggs are priced 2x to 3x what they were then (depending on sales).

            “Hours worked per furniture set?”

            I’ve little idea, but with the rise of IKEA, Target, and Wal-Mart I imagine they’re cheaper now (but shoddier).

            “Hours worked per mile driven (gasoline plus depreciation)?”

            A gallon of gasoline is (depending on summer or winter) about 3x to 4x what it was then.

            On balance guys in my trade have less purchasing power than twenty years ago, though median wages in my area are up those higher wages have largely gone to “the best and the brightest” from around the world (typically Asia and prosperous American suburbs), on the other hand work is just easier to find now than in 1990 or 2010 (if not quite as easy as 1999).

            In terms of the chance of finding a job that will let one buy a house during in my lifetime 1973 (when my parents bought the house my Mom still lives in) tops the list, second most after the ’70’s would be around 1995.

          • JayT says:

            You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners.

            And don’t forget that those are policies that Plumber himself has derided for not limiting house ENOUGH!

          • Plumber says:

            @JayT says: “…And don’t forget that those are policies that Plumber himself has derided for not limiting house ENOUGH!…”

            It depends on where.

            San Francisco itself is quite dense enough already (and the places where it isn’t the ground is often toxic), and the sewers are already past capacity during heavy rains, as are the treatment plants.

            Oakland and Berkeley are also past sewer capacity, but parts of Oakland are non dense and non toxic still, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties could stand much more building, I’d be fine with a series of replicas of the Cabrini Green towers surrounding Larry Ellison’s Japanese-style mansion.

          • Skeptic says:


            Infrastructure has nothing to do with it. If density is allowed, then property taxes rise and more infrastructure services can be provided.

            This is rent seeking.

            Just like Doctors refuse to allow Doctors from England to treat sick Corona patients.

            Just like Nurses refuse to allow Nurses from England to treat Corona patients.

            Just like California lawyers refuse to allow any other lawyer to represent clients.

            Just like California refuses to allow construction…..

            Rent seeking to steal from us, the working class and give to the 1%. And people vote for it every year

        • Skeptic says:


          Gas price differential should be nowhere near that high unless this is a California regulatory thing. I’d add to that MPG and maintenance costs should make driving cheaper now than it was then?

          Housing in the Bay Area is completely insane though, but again it’s entirely an intentional policy choice.

          Generally speaking prices have fallen outside of areas where government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply.

          Just my 2 cents (potentially myopic) from looking at macro level data, I’m certainly not going to argue with your personal experience. 🙂

          • Plumber says:

            I remember that a gallon of regular gasoline was still 99¢ in the early to mid 1990’s, by 2001 it spiked to $1.99, in 2007 it was close to $5 a gallon, today the going rate is $3.69 a gallon at the station closest to my work, and $3.59 at the station closest to my house, but there’s a crowded $3.35 a gallon station a 20 to 40 minute (depending on traffic) drive further away from my house. 

          • Skeptic says:


            California gas prices apparently are indeed crazy. You’re paying 30-50% higher, again this is intentional California government policy. This has nothing to do with market forces. This is a policy choice that voters support.

            Egg prices are actually roughly unchanged, even not adjusted for inflation. Apparently 99 cents in ‘91, and still about 99 cents at Wal Mart in 2019 which is amazing. If there’s a differential it’s either some whacky California farming law or you’re paying California real estate leasing prices as part of those 12 eggs.

            Housing is entirely a policy choice on not allowing supply to expand. If you subsidize demand and restrict supply, housing becomes unaffordable. But this isn’t due to anything that except incumbent home owners protecting their millions of real estate wealth by making building illegal.

            Cheers! 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            by 2001 it spiked to $1.99, in 2007 it was close to $5 a gallon, today the going rate is $3.69 a gallon at the station closest to my work, and $3.59 at the station closest to my house, but there’s a crowded $3.35 a gallon station

            In Lexington, Kentucky, gas has been as low as $1.99 a gallon in Anno Domini 2020.

          • Jake R says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            I paid $1.89 last week in southwest Louisiana.

          • Nick says:

            Prices have been $1.99-2.19 here in Northeast Ohio.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I believe my eyes.

          You aren’t believing your eyes, you are deciding that only blue collar workers matter. Inflation adjusted earnings in the Bay area are up a significant amount since 2000, but moreover if we take your posts seriously about when you bought your home, what you bought it for and how you paid for it then your net worth is likely near or over a million dollars just from your real estate holdings. I find it hard to cry for someone who chooses to complain about housing prices so frequently when they are likely able to retire and live off said increases if they were willing to move to where 75% of the country lives.

          • Plumber says:

            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house, and our son’s won’t be likely to be able to buy one until after we’re dead, my parents on the other hand we’re able to buy one in Berkeley in 1973 when my Mom was in her mid 20’s and my Dad was in his early 30’s, and my wife’s parents were able to do the same in Seattle in the ’70’s.

            What really rankled was my going through a grueling 9,000 hours of labor apprenticeship with five years of night classes in order to triple my wages only to find that housing had gone up 5x in less than a decade. 

            And yes, I care about how my social class has fared, but also how my peers have, my brother got a college diploma and a white-collar job, but he moved to Maryland to be able to live in a house, and I really don’t see the value of an economy that has newcomers come here to make their fortunes and then leave, with few able to build roots.

            When the Okies came they didn’t force natives out, this feels more like being a Californio rancher being displaced by Anglo squatters during the Gold Rush. 

          • baconbits9 says:

            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house,

            So you worked and saved for ~30 years and now you have a significant amount of wealth that you could tap? Sounds like how things should work to me.

            and our son’s won’t be likely to be able to buy one until after we’re dead

            You mean specifically in SF, right? Because I ‘bought’ my first house in 2003 at 24 while making $15 an hour. It worked because I split the mortgage with my brother, and we rented the 3rd room out for the 6 years we lived together and choose a cheap city to do it in. Then my wife and I bought together in 2010, and despite having a combined income of under $50,000 that year we managed to buy a twin that we could rent half of by again choosing a less than ideal location, and committing to managing the property and repairs by ourselves as much as possible. Later on we dropped ~ 1/3rd of our income so we could have kids without sending them to daycare/school.

            Where we live now is far from ideal from my view, but I know that those were decisions I made about what I value + scarcity. Not everyone can live in San Diego like I would want to.

            What really rankled was my going through a grueling 9,000 hours of labor apprenticeship with five years of night classes in order to triple my wages only to find that housing had gone up 5x in less than a decade.

            Home ownership rates in the US went up from 64% in 1990 to 69% in 2004-2006, and didn’t fall back to 1990 levels until 2014. It was easier to acquire a home, going by that rate from 1995 through 2012 than it was at any point prior to 1995 going back to the mid 60s.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house,

            That sucks, but now that you’ve had it for nine years and it’s worth $1.1 million, you could sell it, pay a bit over $150k cash for a house like mine, and live off (mortgage-free) the $950,000 you passively invest with Vanguard or Fidelity.

    • Nick says:

      This isn’t the first time that factcheckers have admitted something is factually wrong but concluded it’s “mostly true” in the end anyway. Babylon Bee parodied this a while back.

      • acymetric says:

        Maybe they need a new classification. Something like “false/overly exaggerated, but the general point stands”.

        • EchoChaos says:

          They can call it “Trumpian”.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, I think we have to admit when something is false, but we should be able to break down whether it’s complete fabrication, or exaggeration, or the like. The same way we can admit something is strictly true but misleading.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Maybe “truthy” or “fake but accurate”?

        • Matt M says:

          No. Their job is to check facts.

          If you want to get into “well the facts are one way but they could be interpreted a different way in which case….” scenarios you are no longer a fact checker. You’re just another propagandist/journalist…

      • EchoChaos says:

        The article was even better than the headline, which it isn’t always.

        There are four lights.

      • ana53294 says:

        Reminds me of this short film.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      All quantitative claims are false if you demand enough precision; to get “mostly true” you should only have to be in the right ballpark.

      What counts as “in the right ballpark” depends on what degree of precision could reasonably be expected.

      This one is out by a bit less than 20%. Given that the natural point of comparison is how much prices have changed by in that time span, and they’ve changed by far more than 20%, I think that rating this as “mostly true”, while certainly open to criticism, is also certainly defensible – in the context of prices having risen by a factor of multiples, describing a wage change of 20% as still basically the same strikes me as not unreasonable.

      • Matt says:

        I disagree that ‘median wage of all workers’ is a reasonable comparison to ‘starting wage of unskilled labor’.

        It looks like the median wage in 2017 was about $21.50

        Defensible comparisons would seem to be ‘amazon warehouse worker vs average warehouse worker in 1970’ or ‘$12.75 vs $21.50’

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          That strikes me as a much stronger point than “the difference between $10.43 and $12.75 is significant”, and if your numbers are correct I agree that it probably makes his point extremely misleading to the point of being deceptive, even if not technically false.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Perhaps, but my experience with fact checking sites is that they do not extend this benefit of the doubt to people they don’t like or who are making points they don’t like. Those get the “false” or “mostly false” rating, even if they’re just as defensible as this one.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          My favourite example was when Politifact rated Trump’s claim that Hillary was in favour of open borders “mostly false”… right after quoting a speech in which Hillary literally said she wanted “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”.

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          While I agree with you that Politifact (and possibly other fact-checking sites, but that’s the only one I read) tends to extend more benefit of the doubt to left-leaning than right-leaning claims, that doesn’t mean that this rating is indefensible.

      • rumham says:

        describing a wage change of 20% as still basically the same strikes me as not unreasonable.

        Would you ascribe that percentage as basically the same to any other economic metric?

        For example: “taxes are down 20% for the upper class”

        Would you describe that as “basically the same”?

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          No, I wouldn’t – that’s what I meant by “depends on what degree of precision could reasonably be expected”.

          My natural point of comparison for a changes in taxation is other changes in taxation, which are usually small, so I view even being out by 2% is a big deal.

          My natural point of comparison for a change in the value of a thing over 30 years is the changes in value of other things over 30 years*, which tend to be in the range of hundreds of percent, so 20%, while not trivial, is a much smaller deal.

          *At least when being referred to make this sort of point – I imagine there are other contexts where more precision is expected, and in those getting this number wrong by the same amount would be a much bigger deal.

          • rumham says:


            Is that really the right way to look at it? The most wage change in the last 50 years, according to pew, was upper-income level going up 64%. If I said that it only went up 44%, would you rate that mostly true?

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            While I agree with you that Politifact (and possibly other fact-checking sites, but that’s the only one I read) tends to extend more benefit of the doubt to left-leaning than right-leaning claims, that doesn’t mean that this rating is indefensible.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The summary:

      But his larger claim, that wages haven’t moved much in the last three decades, is on point. Accounting for inflation, the median wage has only increased $3 since 1990 — and the cost of living expenses has far outpaced that number.

      But “accounting for inflation” is already accounting for “cost of living expenses”. The usual deflator is some version of the CPI. So they’re double counting inflation. Completely invalid, and completely unsurprising.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Politifact hasn’t been reliable for a long time, if ever.

      • Aftagley says:

        That’s not true, actually.

        Poltifact evaluated that claim back in 2018 and rated it as “Pants on Fire.”

        • Paul Brinkley says:


          In 2019, I read on Poltrifact that that claim was “Egg on Your Face”.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        I disagree.

        It’s true that where ambiguity exists Politifact tends to give more benefit of the doubt to left-wing than right-wing claims. But being biased is not the same thing as being unreliable.

        • Clutzy says:

          The ratings are unreliable because of the bias. It means that there are instances where a 100% true statement is rated as “partially true”.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I think “mostly true” is the right call on this one, though it’s a tough call. More broadly, I think the question here boils down to “how do you fact check a vague claim?”

      He says “your parents made that 30 years ago”, without really making it clear what group he’s referring to. You can parse his statement as meaning “that was the median wage 30 years ago” but it seems to be a stretch to call it a false statement based off such an significant alteration.

      I tend to read the claim as meaning that that was a fairly common wage 30 years ago such that many parents of those in the audience likely made around that. Under such a parse, the statement seems to be true. I think it was the right call to knock it down to a “mostly true” due to how vague “your parents” is, and how other (IMO worse) interpretations of the statement are not accurate. But I don’t think it’s fair to call it false on the assumption that he was referring to median wage when he never said that.

      • Nick says:

        If something is really vague, it seems wrong to me to call it true or false at all.

      • rumham says:

        That seems a better take. But if viewed that way, it’s essentially a meaningless statement, right? I mean, there’s a pretty large set of numbers that qualify for the money that someone’s parent(s) made in the 90s.

        But I don’t think it’s fair to call it false on the assumption that he was referring to median wage when he never said that.

        I wouldn’t even have been commenting on it if they had gone even to just “half true”.

        • GreatColdDistance says:

          But if viewed that way, it’s essentially a meaningless statement, right?

          Not quite, but damn close. If he had suggested that “your parents” made $2 or $2500 an hour I think that’s far enough off the mark that you could call it false because it is quite unlikely that anyone’s parents in the audience made those wages, but it is a pretty squishy statement with a lot of leeway indeed. It would be ideal if they added some kind of “too vague to call true/false but here’s some data to help you decide how to feel about it” rating, maybe to go with a “true but misleading” label as well. But it is hard to place on their scale as it exists.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I tend to read the claim as meaning that that was a fairly common wage 30 years ago such that many parents of those in the audience likely made around that. Under such a parse, the statement seems to be true.

        Under such a claim it is false. Amazon warehouse entry level positions aren’t the mean wage now, and were the mean position 30 years ago.

  26. Beans says:

    …support decriminalizing border crossings

    While I’ve heard of this concept before, I don’t think I’ve passed through the spheres where it’s ever really discussed. But I’ve gotten the sense that some support this, and I can’t imagine why.

    I see some benefits to the world being divided into self-organized administrative units: making the whole thing one big bowl of mashed potatoes seems like an organizational nightmare that would open the door to unimaginable chaos even if everyone involved had the best of intentions.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      And Biden, thank God, is the one who refused to be forced into that position. Because he knew the general was coming up.

      (Biden’s position, as I recall, was that such prosecutions “wouldn’t be a priority” but he kept on refusing to say he’d quit enforcing them altogether).

      • rumham says:

        While most of that seems very reasonable, the end is some bullshit. The cruel conditions for immigrants were largely caused by withholding of funding by the same people who made press conferences deriding it. “Liar! There’s no crisis!” and then changing up to crisis when the results of no funding and greatly increased border jumping predictably come home to roost and then blaming Trump. Getting rid of Trump will not end their cynical mendacity and cruelty.

        The ending:

        Two things will ensure our immigration system better reflects our values. The first is defeating Trump in 2020, ending his power to use the U.S. Code as a brutal tool in his nativist crusade. Then we need address our broken immigration system and enact lasting reforms that make the process humane, fair, and efficient moving forward.

        What the fuck was stopping them 4 years ago?

        • Plumber says:

          @rumham says:

          “…What the fuck was stopping them 4 years ago?”

          Because unlike the previous 58 U.S. Presidential elections the 2020 one will be a magic election in which Congress will be so swayed the election of [whomever] that all the Representatives and Senators will shout “Gosh golly Bernie/Joe/Liz/Mike/whoever you are so very correct, good looking, virtuous, and wise that I feel compelled to pass all of the agenda that you promised in your campaign and would you like a foot massage?”

          Or something like that.

        • rumham says:


          It’s even worse than that. They don’t even have any plans other than giving all of central america free healthcare. Have you even heard anyone proposing anything the least bit logical? Like say, ankle monitors?

        • acymetric says:

          It’s even worse than that. They don’t even have any plans other than giving all of central america free healthcare.

          I’m pretty sure nobody is proposing that, or even something that could be construed as resembling it by anyone who is either reasonable or honest.

          Have you even heard anyone proposing anything the least bit logical? Like say, ankle monitors?

          On who? Everyone?

        • rumham says:


          Granted it’s hyperbole. But if all of central america travels far enough north theoretically, it would be supported.

          On who? Everyone?

          People who are waiting on an asylum claim. Contrary to our current crop of politicians, there are other options than packing everyone into inadequate facilities or just hoping they show up for court.

        • Statismagician says:

          As opposed to detention camps, than which they’d be much more humane and cost-effective.

          EDIT: @acymetric

  27. Luije says:

    If you’re so interested in morality, why aren’t you a judge?

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) It’s entirely possible that some of us are, or could be, judges in real life
      (2) Morality and the law don’t have very much to do with each other; you’d be better to ask why aren’t we clergypersons or members of ethics committees or suchlike
      (3) How do you know we aren’t sitting here judging you?

    • Iago the Yerfdog says:

      If you’re so interested in food, why aren’t you a health inspector?

    • Matt says:

      In addition to Deiseach’s replies:

      I chose my career based on

      1) I was interested in it
      2) I was capable of achieving it
      3) It (or the fall-back if I failed to achieve it) would produce a good result for me, salary-wise.

      There are probably people who are interested in morality and might choose a morality-related career, but for some combination of 2 & 3 not working out for them.

    • Bobobob says:

      If you’re so interested in criticism, why aren’t you Roger Ebert?

    • Aftagley says:

      I can’t tell if this is a real question or not.

      Assuming it is:

      1. Judges don’t assess morality. Our system of justice isn’t set up to care about morality, it determines guilt or innocence. If there is enough evidence to establish guilt, that’s all that matters. While you would hope that morality plays a part in determining what the laws are, that’s the legislature’s job, hopefully influenced by the voters. That’s why both eyes of lady justice are covered, she literally doesn’t care about “right” and “wrong” only justice.

      2. Even if trials did assess morality, that’s still not the domain of judges to make the final call; that’s what we have juries for. When a jury is present, the judge is just there to “call balls and strikes” as the saying goes. They help enforce process and serve as a final authority when the two parties come into disagreement over process. Morality really doesn’t come into play here, nor again, would you want it to.

      3. Even for cases where the parties have waved their right to a jury, and the judge is the person determining guilt or innocence, then you still don’t get to any major moral decisions, as a judge knows more than anyone else the rules surrounding and constraining their decision-making process.

      In short, I don’t see any reason to believe that judges have a career more dependent on an interest in morality than your average profession, and far less than some others (clergy/philosopher/activist/lawmaker).

      • Luije says:

        I hoped for an answer like yours. Thanks.

        • Aftagley says:

          Your welcome, I guess.

          Putting some pathos in that I left out of my original post, I’ve got someone very close to me in my personal life who is a judge. Some of the toughest aspects of their job have been times when just and right didn’t necessarily seem to stack up. Fortunately, in the most egregious cases of disparity, the system is normally flexible enough to account for it, but not always and the breakdowns can be heart-wrenching.

    • Two McMillion says:

      You get 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If you’re so interested in morality, why aren’t you a judge?

      Judge not, lest ye be judged?
      (Fun fact: when I was like 6 years old, I saw my parents watching one of those court TV shows and asked my mom “If Christians aren’t supposed to judge, does a Christian nation need unbelievers to become judges?”)

  28. Eric T says:

    Want to go to the Moon? Well NASA is looking for applicants. The requirements are about as strict as you’d expect. According to the site you must have the following:
    -United States citizenship
    -A master’s degree in a STEM field, OR one of the following:
    >Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science,
    technology, engineering or math field;
    >A completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree;
    >Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally or internationally recognized test pilot school program. However, if test pilot school is your only advanced degree, you must also have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field.
    -Have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft
    -Pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical. (Which generally requires you to be in excellent physical shape).

    If you have all of that, you might be qualified. Anyone here feel like applying?

    • achenx says:

      Last I checked, NASA astronaut requirements included being shorter than.. 6’1” or 6’2” or something. So even if I did finish up that master’s degree I’d still be out of luck.

    • Matt says:

      I meet all the educational requirements (not the pilot ones) and I already work at NASA, but I’m too tall and, while I’m in ok shape, I’m not in astronaut shape.

      Realistically, they’re going to take the cream of the crop, and of the people who would apply, I would be nowhere near the top.

      But if we get a lot of people in space again maybe they’ll open the training tank here in Huntsville and I can spend 8 hours a week or so assisting astronaut training. I work with guys who used to do that and it sounds pretty awesome to get paid for a couple of half-days each week diving while the astronauts practice EVA stuff.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What is the test for being in astronaut shape?

        • rumham says:

          You have to be able to drive cross-country with only a single diaper.

        • Matt says:

          Other than good or correctable vision and height-weight inside some envelope, the test itself doesn’t seem to be available. A guy I work with who meets all the requirements and runs triathlons for fun applied to the astronaut program a couple of years ago and got rejected pretty early in the process.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      For a moment I missed the “one of the following” bit and thought that you basically had to build your life around this. But if it’s just ONE, that’s not actually too high of a bar. A degree and then (not too much) jet time.

      • Eric T says:

        It’s one of the “>” entries, you need all of the “-”

        In hindsight my formatting could use some work

    • AlphaGamma says:

      My favourite bit (from the USAjobs listing):

      Travel Required- Extensive Travel Required

      This seems like something of an understatement.

      • bean says:

        It’s not just that. Astronauts do a lot of travel even when on Earth. They go to meet suppliers, sit on boards, and do PR work.

  29. DragonMilk says:

    So since everyone seems to be discussing C who must not be named, let’s talk face mask habits/hygiene.

    In Asia, people wear face masks generally not to protect themselves, but as a courtesy to prevent spread to others.

    In the US, people seem to have a terrible habit of showing up to places like work or church or other public places coughing in the open. Just yesterday at church, a woman sitting next to my wife coughed into her fist repeatedly, to my wife’s consternation, as she’s a doctor.

    What will it take for the US to adopt better self-quarantine habits, such as wearing a facemask out of courtesy, and not making it feel weird? As an Asian, I’m not going to wear a facemask as people will assume I’m a carrier of the thingy, and there’s been anti-facemask incidents already.

    • profgerm says:

      A complete overhaul of American social norms and a strong move towards use of social shaming specifically for the benefit of the majority.

      American culture is too individualist for “do this to protect others” attitudes, and while social shaming seems to have stepped up the past few years, it has explicitly NOT been for the betterment/protection of the majority.

      As for literally how… mass propaganda campaigns. Every celebrity from Adele to ZZ Top, from the big screen to the medium screen to the pocket screen, wearing masks and encouraging people to do the same. How you balance this with messaging that people aren’t supposed to freak out, who knows.

      • Matt M says:

        As for literally how… mass propaganda campaigns.

        Yeah, my suggestion was going to be “lie and tell the public that it absolutely does protect you from catching the disease from others.”

        And given that it seems to spread a lot even before symptoms are manifest, it should still be helpful even if people stop wearing it once they believe they’re actually sick.

        • Lambert says:

          Why not just tell everyone to wear certified NIOSH N95 (or EN149 FFP2) masks?
          Because those do protect the wearer (c. tenfold).

          • John Schilling says:

            For approximately the same reason we don’t just tell everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine – the small problem of inadequate existence, which will take months at least to rectify.

          • Lambert says:

            And thus did the spraypainters, carpenters and road workers inherit the Earth.

  30. The Nybbler says:

    So Klobuchar has a rally disrupted by BLM protestors. Remember them? Seems like this hasn’t happened in a while. My suspicion is this is the DNC higher-ups way of telling her to drop out… anyone think it’s just a coincidence?

    • JayT says:

      My conspiracy theory is that the DNC pushed Buttigieg to drop out before Super Tuesday, but told Klobuchar to stay in to lower Sanders’ Minnesota delegate haul, and then drop out after.

        • DragonMilk says:

          For what it’s worth, I was rooting for your conspiracy theory!

          I wonder what cabinet positions were promised Booty and Klo, given how much the latter despises the former.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If Biden wins I want Klobuchar at Defense just so if we wind up in a war she can announce it yelling “It’s Klobberin’ time!!”

          • acymetric says:

            Why on Earth would anyone give Pete a cabinet position? For what possible benefit? He was going to have to drop out soon anyway.

            0 qualification for being on the cabinet in any capacity, and announcing that he will be on the cabinet in advance nets you approximately 0 additional votes in the general. Not the first place I’ve seen this, and still makes no sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why on Earth would anyone give Pete a cabinet position? For what possible benefit? He was going to have to drop out soon anyway.

            First, it may change the outcome of this election if Pete (and Amy) drop out before Super Tuesday, as opposed to “soon”. In particular, many of the Democratic primaries have a 15% threshold for awarding any delegates; marginal contests going from Joe, Pete, and Amy each getting 10-14% of the vote could give Sanders a lock on the plurality whereas Joe getting 15+% makes it a close to even race (or even a Biden plurality depending on how he does in his strongest states).

            Second, because the DNC may also want to see a Democrat win presidential elections in 2024 or 2028 when Biden can’t be their man. If not Biden, who? Some loser from 2020 that nobody’s heard from since, or the current Secretary of State (or whatever)? Note that Hillary wasn’t given State because of her vast experience in international diplomacy.

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            Your first point stands, my problem with it is that it damages credibility when part of what Dems are running on is “restoring competency to the White House”. That probably means having competent/qualified cabinet members. I get the need to have the field thinned, but using the cabinet carrot for Pete would have been pretty much a last resort.

            Second, because the DNC may also want to see a Democrat win presidential elections in 2024 or 2028 when Biden can’t be their man. If not Biden, who? Some loser from 2020 that nobody’s heard from since, or the current Secretary of State (or whatever)? Note that Hillary wasn’t given State because of her vast experience in international diplomacy.

            She at least had experience in governance above the municipal level. Also, Pete will (unfortunately) still not be a viable national candidate in 2024, and probably not 2028 either. He’s young, so maybe someday, but not any day soon.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, Pete will (unfortunately) still not be a viable national candidate in 2024, and probably not 2028 either. He’s young, so maybe someday, but not any day soon.

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028? If the answer is “meh, someone will probably show up”, then that’s how we wound up with such a lackluster field this time. Developing your talent pool is part of what winning political parties need to do, and that means giving your potential future candidates high-profile jobs. Ones beyond their currently demonstrated talents, where they might do real harm if they screw up.

            If you’re always going to give the top non-presidential jobs to your most qualified/experienced people in the name of “restoring competency”, then when it’s time to put forth a presidential candidate you’re stuck with graybeards on the edge of senility or younglings with inadequate gravitas.

          • albatross11 says:


            How much less qualified for the presidency is Mayor Pete today than Obama was in 2008?

          • EchoChaos says:


            Modestly? I view Obama in 2008 as one of the least qualified Presidential candidates we’ve ever had, but he did have a longer time in state elected office and some time in national elective office, which substantially beats Pete’s resume.

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028? If the answer is “meh, someone will probably show up”, then that’s how we wound up with such a lackluster field this time.

            I mean yes the Dems need to be getting some candidates ready for 2024/2028 and beyond. I just don’t think Pete is that guy (yet).


            How much less qualified for the presidency is Mayor Pete today than Obama was in 2008?

            Moderately less qualified, but not disqualifyingly so. Pete could be a solid President assuming he is backed by a quality supporting cast (cabinet). I do not believe he would be effective in a cabinet position (supporting someone else as President), at this stage. Put Pete in a cabinet position while also saying “we’re going to establish a more competent executive” as part of the campaign and Trump is going to fire back “Competent? They’re putting that guy in charge of [x], he’s never seen an [x] in his whole life! Sad!” and it’ll land regardless of how hypocritical it is with regards to his own staff. This is the kind of self-inflicted wound Dems are going to serve up to Trump on a silver platter on their way to losing this election.

            Pete has a bright future in politics, and the Dems need to find a prominent place for him, but it shouldn’t be on this cabinet (or at the very least if it is they should not announce it before the general in November).

          • DragonMilk says:

            Booty is in a red state and has lost big in his statewide attempts at elected office, so he needs to move or leapfrog.

          • Plumber says:

            John Schilling says: “OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?”

            My first guess is one of the 24 Democrats who are currently State Governors. 

            Have one spend some time in the U.S. Senate and that’s who should run for President. 

            As it stands whichever Party holds the Presidency when the next recession hits (which we’re overdue for) will lose the next Presidential race unless it happened early in the term and there’s a strong recover during most of the term.

          • Garrett says:

            > 0 qualification for being on the cabinet in any capacity

            You could make an argument that with his consulting background he’d be a good pick for Secretary of Commerce. Important enough that it looks good/sounds good on a resume. Not important enough that people are going to get stressed out about it.

            Hell – given that Republicans are opposed to the idea of the department in the first place, the “stuff an idiot in it” model would actually be appealing for some of them.

          • cassander says:

            @john schilling

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?

            If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Gavin Newsom being the next democratic president of the US.

          • Plumber says:

            @Cassandra says: “If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Gavin Newsom being the next democratic president of the US”

            Even though I’m a Democrat I find Newsom as lothsome as Trump (and for much the same reasons) and I fear you’re right.

            @Nick, when Newsom is our nominee try to get your side to nominate someone acceptable for President for when I re-register to change Party affiliation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?

            Social McPrimate.
            (Come on, it’s no sillier a name than George McGovern.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pete has a bright future in politics

            What’s the appeal? I’ve listened to him at the debates and all I hear are platitudes.

            Can somebody steelman Mayor Pete for me? What great ideas or leadership qualities does he bring to the table?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Bright, good looking, well educated religious young gay man with a military background and executive experience that he seems to have executed relatively competently.

            It’s pretty close to the best “design a background for a politician” that you can come up with for Democrat curb appeal.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Gay” is probably not an attribute in either Indiana or Presidential politics. Maybe in the next cycle or the one after. He might be a decent VP candidate since he appeals so strongly to white, educated liberals that aren’t ready to go for Warren or Sanders.

            Steel-man for the conservative side is that Mayor Pete at the very least isn’t a socialist

          • albatross11 says:


            At least he’s not Beto.

          • acymetric says:


            Unfortunately (IMO) I think we are probably 10-15 years (at least) from a point where being gay doesn’t essentially eliminate someone from viability in a national or even most statewide elections.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s not really a steelman.

            Is there anyone here who supports Mayor Pete? Why? What’s the elevator pitch?

          • Aftagley says:

            Elevator Pitch:

            Pete right now: he’s young, gay, charismatic and folksy/religious in a way that no one else in the field is. I can personally attest to the fact that his boomer pull was strong. In a field of relative extremists, he stood out for being the most attractive moderate position. If not for Biden’s presence in the field and young people disliking him, I’d guess he’d be one of the frontrunners.

            Pete in 10-15 years: All of the above + he’s turned his resume from “wow, what a great start to a political career” into “one of the most qualified candidates ever for presidency.” Seriously, give him a few years as VP, cabinet secretary or senator and he’s going to be one of the most qualified people the dems have seen in a generation. (Young people might still hate him though)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Thank you Aftagley. That’s informative.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            re: Mayor Pete, something nobody else mentioned but that is a major reason his brand emerges from this primary mostly burnished is his choice of core message (or, arguably, lack of core message) for his campaign.

            To explain, I will contrast Buttigieg’s message with Warren’s.

            Warren’s one-word message was “plan.” Don’t hate the bankers, hate the failure of politicians to sufficiently plan for how rational actors pursuing self-interest has bad results if we don’t have a plan to have a level playing field. Ditto college being too expensive, or healthcare, or etc. She’s got a plan for that. The thing is, the moment this moment passes, all of Warren’s plans will become archaic–wherever the country is in 10 years, politically, it is very likely to not be exactly where we are now… so many of Warren’s plans will end up outside the overton window, on one side or the other.

            Meanwhile, Mayor Pete’s brand was “mind.” Pete’s focus was never on specific answers, it was on showing he had the kind of mind that could get the right answers. For people who were eager to see candidates endorse specific policy promises, he seemed full of empty platitudes. But for at least some people who think politicians are better chosen for their energy, values, and capacity of mind than for stated positions, he was a strongly appealing candidate (despite obvious drawbacks of youth and inexperience) by the end of the first speech, because he has a talent for showcasing–you could even say, showboating–his capacity of mind.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            yodelyak, that was really interesting. I can definitely see the appeal to people who want a smart president.

    • Aftagley says:

      My suspicion is this is the DNC higher-ups way of telling her to drop out… anyone think it’s just a coincidence?

      So your theory (i realize it’s been since retracted) is that the DNC exerts such influence over BLM that they’re using it (or parties pretending to be associated with it) as a goon squad?

      That’s a pretty far-out assertion, especially given that the DNC has thusfar demonstrated no such competence for the last, what, 20 years?

      • DeWitt says:

        What even happened twenty-odd years ago that you’re using that for a benchmark? How common is this sort of thing anywhere, ever?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I believe that someone or some group exerts enough influence over BLM to use it as a goon squad, and the same person or group has influence at the DNC as well, yes.

      • ana53294 says:

        I am agnostic on whether the DNC controls BLM, but I think it’s much easier to exert control of a radical violence-prone group by provoking them to commit violence rather than making sure they don’t.

        It’s enough to infiltrate a couple of agent provocateur. Controlling a group from commiting violence does require tight control of the leadership. And even in top-down hierarchical groups like the IRA you get even more radical offshoots who don’t want to stop the violence.

        Provoking violence by a violent group does not require huge talent from the DNC.

  31. voso says:

    The Coronavirus in Singapore seems to represent the best case scenario; a sizable initial infection has failed to go exponential.

    How much of this can be attributed to Singapore having a competent healthcare system and intensive tracking of victim relations (just look at the Wikipedia article) vs. Singapore being a tropical paradise that hits 90°F every month of the year?

    Will things get better as temperatures rise in the Northern Hemisphere?

    • Thegnskald says:

      Might I recommend we stop creating new top level comments for this topic?

      • Nick says:

        We may want to quarantine (no pun intended) discussion to 0.25 and 0.75 threads, too, or something. It’s like half of all top level posts right now.

        • EchoChaos says:

          On the one hand, the comment structure can get unwieldy and it’s one of the biggest current stories in the entire world, so you’d expect lots of discussion about it.

          On the other hand, how much real new information is being exchanged at this point?

          On the gripping hand, unless Scott bans it, anyone can create a top level thread about anything.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Disagree. This is a specific question about an aspect of the topic that the other comments in this Open Thread have not mentioned yet. This would be like having only one top-level Trump comment per OT. If gets too much for most of the users, we could quarantine the debate to certain fractions of the OTs.

      • DragonMilk says:

        At this point, perhaps Scott should have a Coronavirus megathread so the comments section does’t get flooded with mostly coronastuff

        • johan_larson says:


          In fact, it might be useful to start special OTs for other hot-button topics too. There’s an awful lot of Inside Baseball about the US primaries here right now.

          • Nick says:

            A megathread occurred to me, but since it’s a developing situation I don’t think that would be ideal. Regular threads would be better. That’s why I suggested just quarantining to particular weekly threads.

            There’s an awful lot of Inside Baseball about the US primaries here right now.

            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

            LOL. No. Inside baseball is used here too. Go Blue Jays. And the Expos (RIP).

          • EchoChaos says:


            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

            Who is the heartwarming emergency goalie to emerge and save Canada in these dark days?

          • Tenacious D says:


            Who is the heartwarming emergency goalie to emerge and save Canada in these dark days?

            The Conservative Party is having a leadership race right now and there are a couple of interesting candidates who aren’t currently politicians: Rick Peterson and Leslyn Lewis.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        It’s much more interesting than discussing every fart of the Democratic candidates.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          This. At least the coronavirus is relevant to everyone and has been around for just a few months.

    • John Schilling says:

      Contact tracking probably is the most effective public-health measure at the present scale, and I expect Singapore is doing that quite well. Apparently well enough to compensate for the intrinsic disadvantage of being a crowded city-state with e.g. high public transit usage; contact tracking probably won’t be done quite so thoroughly in the United States, but it also probably doesn’t need to be.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Good comparison is Thailand, which according to this link is the most at risk country by tourism from China:

      They had quite a few cases early on, but from what I can tell from r/coronavirus have presumably not been very open about their cases, and definitely do not pour even slightly comparable resources into contact tracing as Singapore does. They also did not limit tourism from China, as this is one of their biggest income sources.

      So while we do not know exactly how many cases there are in Thailand, prima facie this country represents the worst case scenario. Since we have however not heard of imported cases from Thailand to other countries (in contrast to Iran), and there are no anecdotal reports of high numbers of pneumonia deaths (which probably should already be occurring).

      I am vaguely optimistic that warm weather will slow the spread.

      • MantaRay says:

        Prior to locking down air travel from China at the start of February, Italy had 3 confirmed cases of coronavirus (and France had 6, and Germany had 7, some of which were transmissions within country). At this point, Thailand already had 19.

        Assuming the same rate of detected to undetected cases, Thailand should have a far more extensive outbreak than any country in Europe given it spreading as quickly as it does in the European winter. But nothing. Same for Indonesia, which has reported only 2 cases – clearly wrong, yet the lack of detection should mean unchecked spread, which I think we can now be pretty certain is not occurring.

        I’m fairly confident that tropical heat/humidity prevents all but limited outbreaks. What about typical Northern European spring temperatures? Are there any countries in the southern hemisphere with both extensive enough traffic from China that we’d expect to have had at least one undetected case, and current usual temperatures around 15-20 celsius? If so they might be worth keeping an eye on.

        • DeWitt says:

          Are there any countries in the southern hemisphere with both extensive enough traffic from China that we’d expect to have had at least one undetected case, and current usual temperatures around 15-20 celsius?

          No. It is summer-going-on-autumn in the southern hemisphere, and none of its inhabited landmasses stretch into the arctic.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Singapore being a tropical paradise that hits 90°F every month of the year?

      Paradise it’s not, given how humid it is, but apparently coronaviruses dislike hot and humid weather even more than humans do.

      • bean says:

        This. So, so much this. The weather there was the one thing I didn’t like. That probably helped, as did a competent government.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I’m not sure government competence makes much difference: we also don’t see much spread in Southeast Asia or Africa, though it could be because poor countries aren’t good at detecting it and/or cover it up when they detect it.

          • bean says:

            Infectious disease control in a setting like that is absolutely something a competent authoritarian-ish government is going to be good at. They have the knowledge and authority to find people who have the disease, track their contacts, and throw everyone in quarantine until they’re tested. Most of the other countries in question have dubious public-health systems, which can’t really take these steps, or even test properly.

  32. Silverlock says:

    Pardon me for making this Public Service Announcement that doesn’t track all that well with typical SSC topics:

    Although most of the alumni of One Direction have not been that impressive post-breakup, Harry Styles has got it goin’ on. Boy has the chops and some good musical ideas.

    That is all. We now return you to your SSC open thread already in progress.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      While we’re making random comments about One Direction, one time when my drinking buddies and I were in New Orleans, a guy on the streetcar thought we were in a band. Well, they thought my friends were a band and I was the manager, because they look cooler than I do (this is true. He literally asked if I were the manager, and no one has ever let me forget it). After that we told everyone we were in a One Direction tribute band, “Two Direction.”

      That is all.

    • Garrett says:

      The original One Direction? Or the one out of the UK?

  33. jermo sapiens says:

    I dont know too much about the latest open source controversy referenced on ESR’s blog here. But it seems to be yet another skirmish in the war for open source where SJWs introduce “codes of conduct” which govern not only contributor’s behavior within the project but also outside of it.

    The strawman version of this is “SJWs thought-police everyone to cancel the people responsible for a project’s prestige and take that prestige for themselves”, and the steelman is “meritocracy is a sham and under-represented people are erased by discriminatory behavior and if we eliminate it the open source community will be even more productive and useful.” I tend to believe the former much more than the latter, but I’m curious to know what the SSC comment section thinks and if anybody has any relevant facts to add that would be great.

    • John Schilling says:

      Respect for perceived merit is basically the only thing Open Source has got in the way of a quality assurance methodology; it is IMO barely adequate at best, but it at least sometimes produces software useful to people who aren’t part of the movement. If you take that away, what’s the motive for anyone to ever produce non-crappy software or find the bugs in other people’s crappy software?

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Well that’s the theory that ESR is pushing, and based on it he’s predicting the ultimate demise of open source. He also views the open source movement as being critical to our infrastructure. I’m not as alarmist as he is but I dont really know anything about this beyond stuff I’ve read on ESR’s blog. But I’m also generally against SJWism anytime, anywhere, so I tend to sympathize with his side.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Open Source in the original vision of ESR, RMS, Linus Torvalds, etc., i.e. code primarily developed by a open community of volunteers is pretty much dead at this point.

          What we have now is corporate “open” source: corporations gracefully deciding to release the code of some of their products when they think it can help adoption or outsource bug fixing and non-essential feature development, but with the original developer firmly remaining in control of the product.

          Open source organizations are completely dependent on corporate money, and ended up adopting corporate culture where disagreement with your boss is discouraged. This is why the old community leaders had to be purged or neutered: Linus caved after lots of pressure, including allegedly honey traps set up to #metoo him. RMS was purged last year using the Epstein excuse and now ESR seems to have been purged too.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok interesting. So you see the move towards SJWism and codes of conduct as related to corporations moving in the open source ecosystem?

          • Lambert says:

            I’m just surprised it took this long to cancel esr.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s the foundation he started, so of course it would take a while to boot him.

        • John Schilling says:

          He also views the open source movement as being critical to our infrastructure. I’m not as alarmist as he is but I dont really know anything about this beyond stuff I’ve read on ESR’s blog.

          There’s definitely been a move towards “let open source handle it” for infrastructure code like e.g. OpenSSL, due to the difficulty of monetizing such work and the tragedy of the commons disincentivizing private development. Unfortunately, this seems to have come at about the time that the open source community grew too large for informal meritocracy to provide the level of quality assurance critical infrastructure software requires, and again see OpenSSL.

          Adding a “wokeness” requirement to open source is not going to be helpful in this regard, but open source was probably doomed as more than a hobbyist niche anyway.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It appears he was thrown out for arguing too forcefully against this. I don’t care how much carbon and iron you add to that, you’ll never make any steel from it; Section 4 is in absolute contradiction to Open Source (and also contradicts Section 1), and Section 5 isn’t much better depending on interpretation. Section 6 is impractical. Section 3 is a cruel joke considering the actual history of enforcement of Codes of Conduct.

      It’s certainly true that ESR argues _very_ forcefully. But allowing forceful argument from one side and not the other is putting a huge thumb on the scale.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Yeah 4 is about being able to deny a license to ICE or something (and Chick-Fil-A, and anyone who deviates ever slightly from the most extreme SJW dogma). And presumably force any corporation which uses open source software to also deny a license to ICE and everyone which gets on the SJW’s wrong side.

        That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Maybe they mean #4 to apply to ICE, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t end up applied to WalMart and then any for-profit company.

          #5… I sort of respect, and I sort of hate. People have the right for compensation. But I hate hate hate the business model of giving away software for free to drive out competition, and then whining that people aren’t paying for your software. Sell it if you want to sell it.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Maybe they mean #4 to apply to ICE, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t end up applied to WalMart and then any for-profit company.

            Yeah I believe ultimately the push for power within open source communities is to have a veto over who can use any software at all. It’s idiotic and will fail in the end, but I think that’s what they’re going for and they will cause alot of disruption.

            As for 5, it just seems odd. What does “solicit” mean here? You’re allowed to ask for money now, there’s a guy on a street corner around here who does this all day.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah 4 is about being able to deny a license to ICE or something (and Chick-Fil-A, and anyone who deviates ever slightly from the most extreme SJW dogma).

          Since you asked the other day why someone might think you’re edging close to a ban: this sort of thing would do it. An evidence-free accusation in strong terms is poor form. The least you could do is link to some of the docs from their Further Reading about the ICE thing.

          That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

          Yeah, I read through a few dozen comments on esr’s post and lots of folks are suggesting that. He doesn’t seem to want to do that, though. Here’s his own strategy:

          I have been pursuing another way for years. That is to broadcast a general understanding that these SJWs are the shock troops of a totalitarian memetic invasion.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Since you asked the other day why someone might think you’re edging close to a ban: this sort of thing would do it.

            You are correct. That was poor form. Apologies.

            Here is a link to an email by someone with clout in the open source community mentioning ICE. That is where I got this notion from. I found the link myself from reading the comments on ESR’s blog.

            I do believe though that section 4 of ethical software definition, reproduced below,

            It is distributed under a license that prohibits the software from being used any individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of social good.

            is on its face a device for blocking people you dont like from using almost any software. I dont think I’m being snarky when I’m saying that if I wanted to write a euphemistic phrase meaning “people I dont like”, I would consider “individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of public good” to be too close to parody.

            They obviously want to block ICE from using any software which in any way uses open source software. But I dont think they want to only block ICE. They have other enemies than ICE, and it is reasonable to expect them to want to use their new weapon against their other enemies also.

            That’s what I meant to say above. Thank you for calling me out and giving me an opportunity to clarify my point.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Social good” though is a very amorphous term to use; how do you define it? what do you consider a social good? Who gets to decide what are and are not social goods? What about competing models of what is a social good – is freely available contraception a social good? how about ensuring employer insurance plans pay for contraception? That’s how you get lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, with both sides presenting competing ideas of what is a social good.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            “Social good” though is a very amorphous term to use; how do you define it? what do you consider a social good?

            That’s part of why I consider this to be beyond parody. It’s not just a social good, it’s a “specified framework of social good”. And if your organization indirectly facilitates behavior that are in opposition to this specified framework, no software for you.

            If this standard was strictly applied, I dont think it’s an exaggeration to say nobody in the world would be allowed to use software.

          • albatross11 says:

            Along with the “whose version of social good are we using?” problem, this kind of license means that your software is much harder to get into widespread use. First, because many existing potential users will be excluded or think they will, and second, because this is a fuzzy enough definition that nobody can really be convinced they’re safe from a demand to stop using the software because there’s been a big moral panic about big pharma or something, and suddenly, there’s a question about whether a bunch of people using your open-source statistics software are allowed to do so.

        • Lambert says:

          > That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

          Unless it’s a viral license. But virality locks EC apart from GNU-style licences (and probably any EC licence with a different definition of ‘social good’).

          The whole of Copyleft standardising on the GPL is what keeps the ecosystem from People’s Front of -ing itself.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Ethical source strikes me as open source’s “Atheism+”, and I suspect it will fall out the same way: the in-fighting and mutual resentment will lead to both movements’ collapse.

        Mind you, there will still be open source software, just as there are still atheists. But I think “open source” will lose a lot of its positive connotations and a lot of developers and projects will just call it a day.

      • Deiseach says:

        It is distributed under a license that prohibits the software from being used any individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of social good.

        We Papists already have that. It’s called the Holy Office. (Technically the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

        Funny how the ultra-liberal always seem to need to re-invent the Inquisition, even as they decry the existence of such bodies for historically censoring them and what they did to transgress mandatory codes.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Funny how the ultra-liberal always seem to need to re-invent the Inquisition, even as they decry the existence of such bodies for historically censoring them and what they did to transgress mandatory codes.

          Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’m somewhat plugged into the controversies in open source. I’m an acquaintance of the linux kernel engineer who left loudly and publically a few years back, citing dislike of Linus Torvalds’s behaviour, who was at that time the only female with subsystem responsibility. (She’d owned/controlled the USB stack, after personally causing Linux to support a new generation of USB before Microsoft and its paid programers.) I also left the linux kernel community myself, a lot more quietly, primarily due to an unwelcoming and generally annoying atmosphere – but I was merely a paid engineer, downstream, not an open source contributor.

      Frankly, I think Linus is an ass, and the community he fostered is full of people who vote with their feet against new blood whenever any appears, unless the newbie is already personally acquainted with and supported by a major maintainer. Rumor has it that Linus stepped back because of this, long after I abandoned the field, leaving a much nicer person in charge, who was one of the few who seemed to be actively supporting new contributors, as well as consistently behaving politely in public, but I have no direct knowledge.

      It is notable that women seem to be less likely than men to push their way into communities like this. I suspect “underrepresented minorities” may have the same statistical tendency. But it’s not limited to either group; plenty of American-born white males don’t want anything to do with that cesspit. In my case, I made a cost benefit analysis – I already had an excellent resume, and could get well paying software engineering jobs without any need to work on the linux kernel; I’d probably have made a different decision if I had been a new grad, looking for something to differentiate myself in a shrinking subfield (there are far fewer jobs for kernel engineers than there were 30 years ago).

      It’s also notable that many long established volunteer communities have the same problem – newbies are driven away. Wikipedia is full of problems of this kind. I personally had problems with my religious community. This can be done without ever being uncivil – if you define civility as the absence of active insult – just ignore the newbie entirely, and/or apply unwaveringly some set of rules they haven’t had a chance to learn. It can be done by nasty public insult, a la Torvalds. I’m not sure which behaviour is worse; it probably depends on the personality of the target.

      The linux community is special, in that status in that community translates directly into job opportunities, but at the same time many of the most active contributors are paid to contribute by their employer. People compete for these potential jobs, and some of them compete viciously. But it isn’t all that different from other established volunteer organizations run by a small clique most of whom don’t feel the need for any new helpers – or who want those helpers kept strictly subordinate.

      I find it unfortunate that people have noted the disparate impact effects, and are trying to change the behaviour based on what they believe/insist the average member of their particular underrepresented community (UC) would find comfortable. Most of the time, this bites members of the UC that are already part of the volunteer group, and behaving much like everyone else, having for whatever personal reason found the atmosphere congenial and/or cared enough to establish themselves in spite of it.

      I also find it to be a normal result of human nature.

      • zardoz says:

        I think Linus himself is kind of an anachronism. He’s a white collar guy who talks like a blue collar guy. If the supervisor of an auto mechanic called someone a “fucking retard” for putting in a brake cylinder in backwards, nobody would be that surprised. But white collar workers are supposed to use elevated diction instead. If you completely botch the code module, “you are not meeting expectations” (same meaning, different words.)

        I don’t know why he talks this way. I think part of it is the culture of Finland, where he grew up. I’ve been told that people are more blunt there. And part of it is doubtless just that he is old, and computer programmers were lower status when he grew up.

        Linus doesn’t attack random newbies, though. His rants are always directed at people who hold some kind of power in the project and who– in his view– made a mistake.

        For a while, I wanted to be a part of the Linux kernel community, and I tried pretty hard to find good jobs there. At the time, though, my resume was pretty thin, and the jobs I could find weren’t very good. Driver stuff, integration stuff. By the time I had a good enough resume to find a nice kernel position, I had already settled into a different line of work that was perhaps just as rewarding.

        I don’t think the Linux kernel is a nasty community like some people are claiming. If you work hard and build things that people like, you will make progress. You have to be open to the feedback that reviewers give you, though. You also have to be persistent. The attention of reviewers is scarce. If you develop a reputation for being overly argumentative or wasting people’s time, they will start to tune you out, like people at a party wandering away.

        I’m sure Linus will be eventually replaced by someone who doesn’t post salty messages comparing people to “masturbating monkeys,” or implying that they are on “some serious mind-controlling substances.” And the world will be a little bit blander and less weird. But I don’t think the community will be any more or less welcoming.

    • Aftagley says:

      Wait, I’m not understanding why this is something worth talking about. ESR was, as far as I can tell, not actively associated with OSI at the time when this incident occured. As far as I can tell he was in a quasi founder/spokesman role. Also as far as I can tell, he still is in whatever role he previously occupied. I’m not 100% confident but it doesn’t look like anyone has taken any action to sever their association with him.

      What did happen is that he was kicked off their mailing lists. More on that later. Before I get to that, however, according to Simon Phipps, it doesn’t look like he had an active member for very long. source. This is supported by This post from 24 Feb, where ESR explicitly states that he is just joining the threads for the first time in 20 years.

      Read through the record if you want. It looks like he joined up to an existing community, was pretty disruptive, then got moderated out of it. I haven’t, and don’t particularly want to go through and find examples of the unacceptable stuff that he said, but at least the consensus of that community’s moderators was that what he was doing is unacceptable. Here is the MODs message on the topic: link

      In Summary:
      24FEB – ESR joins the mailing list
      24FEB-26FEB – ESR posts relatively inflammatory stuff on the list, and sends personal email attacks off list. When challenged, he claims the moral high ground of some things being too important to be polite about.
      26FEB – the mods get pissed off and kick him out

      So, where’s the societal breakdown here? Why should I read this as “those creeping SJWs are taking down the open source community” rather than “old man showed up, was very disruptive and was quickly booted?” Does he get a permanent exception from forum rules?

      • Lambert says:

        IIRC, he’s also blogged before about how kicking out the founders is often a healthy thing for a mature community to do.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        For myself anyways, I’m not particularly interested in why he got booted off the mailing list. I’m more interested in the wider conflict within open source, the imposition of Codes of Conduct, and the attempted take-over of the open source community by SJWs. This latest episode is only interesting within that larger framework.

        • toastengineer says:

          At first I was pretty concerned about this, but looking in to it… it doesn’t seem like the organizations they’re taking over actually matter much, and were already compromised by anti-FOSS corporations anyway. All they really did was hand out money, which could still be a big deal, but it wasn’t that big of a fraction of the money that is being handed out.

          Codes of Conduct are probably either going to become widely acknowledged as bad signaling, or the meme will be earnestly repeated by people who take it at face value and thereby lose all its teeth.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        He wasn’t just booted off mailing lists; he was booted from the OSI as a result of his mailing list participation.

        Of course, when ESR himself described his behavior as ‘arguing too forcefully’ I knew in my bones, without looking, that he had done something exactly like what you describe.

      • Loriot says:

        Thank for your explaining this. It puts the situation in a very different light.

      • rumham says:

        Does it matter that he was defending his friend Marvin Minkskey who was being called a pedophile on the mailing list? (how is that not inflamatory?)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          RMS != ESR

          • Nick says:

            Hey, how is RMS doing? The last stuff I was hearing (a week or two after he was booted) was not good. But I tried searching for followup news and couldn’t find anything. Does he have somewhere to live?

          • rumham says:

            Apologies, got my tech gossip bundled. What was ESR’s thought-crime?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh. His thought crime is not liking SJW stuff. His actual crime is joining the OSI mailing list to berate people over SJW stuff.

          • Aftagley says:

            What was ESR’s thought-crime?

            I wrote a summary of it in this post

          • oracel says:

            The ‘canary’ of the political notes section on is still chirping, so he continues to have access to the internet and enough free time to spend waging the culture war. Other than that I also lost track of him – I don’t approve of the process behind his cancellation, but think there are plenty of ‘noncombatant’ victims who are more deserving of my concern.

          • rumham says:


            Woah. Thank you. That is a metric buttload of crazy. And I absolutely hate seeing bad arguments on things I support, like the exposure of climategate (KBG? Really!?!) and gun rights.

    • BBA says:

      Arguing about who gets to run the Open Source Initiative is like asserting yourself as the rightful heir to the throne of France. It’s difficult to imagine a world where the result will be relevant.

      And even in the much-diminished FOSS community that hasn’t been bought out by Google or IBM yet, I suspect there are a lot more people like Matthew Garrett than there are people like Eric Raymond. (Though the vast majority, like in every community, are apolitical and will go along to get along with whoever’s in charge.)

      • zardoz says:

        Yeah, I really doubt corporations will want to touch “ethical source” software with a ten-foot pole. It’s a huge risk with no upside for them. (They probably feel the same way about ESR, though….)

        • Loriot says:

          At least at Google, the Crockford license is banned, and that was basically meant as a joke. No way will they ever touch software where the licenses are actively trying to hurt corporations. Of course, activists will consider that mission accomplished, since Google is no longer part of the cool crowd and instead considered evil, but what they don’t realize is that any corporation with a competent legal team will do the same, even the ones they (currently) like.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Thanks, that made me look up the Crockford license.

            I love IBM’s solution, which was to get permission to use his software for evil.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Arguing about who gets to run the Open Source Initiative is like asserting yourself as the rightful heir to the throne of France. It’s difficult to imagine a world where the result will be relevant.

        I think it’s an interesting case study in how organizations can be taken over by an ideological cabal. This is just me speculating but the whole thing doesnt feel that it happened naturally (ie new people wanting to write open source just having a different culture than those writing open source previously), rather it really feels like a take-over that was planned from the top down. I cannot prove this, this is just a hunch I have.

        Things that feed my hunch are blog posts like this one. This to me does not read like the author is arguing what the title says – that open source is broken. This reads like the author hates the notion of open source and wants to do away with the concept completely.

        The old saw by pro-choicers, if you dont like abortions, dont get one, should be applicable here. If you dont like open source, dont write open source. But these people are arguing seemingly incompatible points, like we need to get more representation of (some minority) in open source, and also that open source developers are being exploited. This same mentality seems to be at play in the push for codes of conduct and ethical software.

        So to me at this time the more likely explanation for the whole thing is that open source software was identified as a source of prestige/power/something of value by someone, and there is a concerted effort to conquer it. I dont know what the ultimate aim would be, but I think the ability to block enemies from using essential software is a potential candidate. I dont think that would work because of forking, but there are certainly tons of important considerations Im not even aware of, and my epistemic status on this whole thing is very low.

        • Lambert says:

          > I dont know what the ultimate aim would be

          > prestige/power

          It’s not people haning around in smoky rooms deciding to do a concerted takeover of a movement. It’s a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            It’s not people haning around in smoky rooms deciding to do a concerted takeover of a movement. It’s a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.

            It could very well be. I’m just trying to understand it because currently what I’m seeing almost pattern-matches to the default explanation of like-minded people taking decisions in their own interest, but it’s a bit off, in a way that makes me uneasy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Because it’s not. There are some organic true believers in the movement, but there’s also a whole bunch of entryists (like Ehmke) and outside agitators (e.g. Shanley Kane). You can see in that blog post and elsewhere that they attempt to take advantage of a common insecurity in the non-true-believers — they they aren’t good with people and that their focus on code is somehow bad to people. ESR doesn’t have that insecurity and rejects it openly, so he had to go.

            The tendency of the entryists and outsiders to extremely abusively berate the others for being somehow non-empathetic and cruel has often been noted (e.g. “Untitled”), but for whatever reason, it often fails to evoke the appropriate angry reaction.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Because it’s not.

            What is this in reference to?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s NOT just “a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok thanks.

          • Lambert says:

            I never said it wasn’t entryism.
            Just that the entryism was bottom-up.

        • BBA says:

          Again, I point you to Matthew Garrett, who is both an utterly insufferable SJW and one of the most prolific contributors to FOSS out there. This is not entryism, this is actual left-wing grassroots within the movement itself, 100% organic.

          And of all the institutions of the movement, OSI is one of the least relevant. They produce no software of their own, their main role is approving licenses as “open source”, but they’ve approved so many that the likes of Debian reject as too restrictive that almost nobody talks about OSI approval anymore. It meant something back when SourceForge was a thing, it doesn’t now. A perfect organization for “famous for being famous” types like Raymond and Ehmke to fight over, but not one that will make a difference to anyone’s life.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok. Well you clearly know much more about this world than I do, and I appreciate you sharing what you know. Thanks.

  34. Bobobob says:

    Fritz the Cat (1972) just showed up on Amazon Prime. I watched it last night. Amazingly, I had never seen it, even though I had a huge collection of underground comic books around the time it came out. Then again, Fritz was rated X, so I might have found it difficult to sneak my 11-year-old self into a theater.

    The move is awful, just awful. None of the spirit of the R. Crumb comics that inspired it. And it was directed by Ralph Bakshi, who (I guess I am finally getting to the point of this post) just never seemed to have the talent to make the most of the limited window of opportunity pop culture gave him. Fritz the Cat, Wizards, Cool World…they were all awful. I seem to remember that Heavy Traffic (which I have not seen in 30 years) had some good bits, and you have to give Bakshi credit for tackling Lord of the Rings, even though that movie has its stylistically jarring moments. But he just never seemed to be a good-enough animator, story-teller, or crafter of visual gags.

    How might history have been different if an actually talented animator/director had created edgy alternatives to the bland Disney crap of the 70’s and 80’s? We will never know.

    • Plumber says:

      @Bobobob says:

      “…R. Crumb comics…

      Fritz the Cat, Wizards, Cool World…they were all awful. I seem to remember that Heavy Traffic (which I have not seen in 30 years) had some good bits, and you have to give Bakshi credit for tackling Lord of the Rings….”

      My Dad and step-Dad left R. Crumb and Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Comix lying around, and those were pretty much how I learned to read, I saw Fritz the Cat at a movie theater in the ’80’s, and I remember almost nothing about it ‘ceot for a musical segue/interlude featuring the song “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley which inspired me to buy some Bo Diddley records and play them at a college radio station I volunteered at (despite still being a high school student, hey I had a classmate/friend who did the same when she was still a junior high school student).

      I far better remember Wizards which I saw in the ’70’s in the theater with my Dad, and I saw The Lord of the Rings in the theater with my Mom in 1978, which didn’t impress me, I liked The Hobbit cartoon I saw on television, and the Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger film that I had seen the year before better.

      “…How might history have been different if an actually talented animator/director had created edgy alternatives to the bland Disney crap of the 70’s and 80’s? We will never know”

      These seemed to be plenty of “edgy” cartoons at the animation film fests I watched in the ’80’s, I suppose if Ralph Baksh’s works had done better there may have been some other non-European/non-Japanese long form works released besides Rock & Rule (featuring the voices of Deborah Harry, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed!).

      • Bobobob says:

        Funny you mention that Bo Diddley interlude, that was the only good part of the movie! (All two minutes of it…)

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Fire and Ice was OK as schlocky entertainment.

    • a real dog says:

      How was Cool World bad? Cheesy and kinda plotless, sure, but I enjoyed it and so did a lot of my friends – the visuals are quite memorable.

  35. rocoulm says:

    How do delegates already won by dropped-out Democratic candidates vote? I recall in the Republican primary process, candidates would “pledge” their delegates to another candidate they approved of, but I have heard no mention of that happening so far in this race.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Depends on the state. In some states they still vote for that candidate on the first ballot. In others they become free to vote as they want.

      Regardless, they’re free on the second ballot.

      • acymetric says:

        Are you sure? I thought it was consistent by state, but that it depends on how they withdraw. Pete, for example, has “suspended his campaign” but, as far as I know, has not actually withdrawn his candidacy. This is fairly common. If this remains true (which is also fairly common), his delegates would still be awarded to him on the first ballot even though he is no longer running. If he formally withdraws, then his delegates become free to vote as they choose. There is some tradition/expectation that if Pete endorses someone they would vote for who he endorses, but it isn’t required and I don’t know how strictly that etiquette tends to be followed.

        So far as I know this is the case for all states, at least for the Democratic primaries (Republican primaries are different). I believe this is at least slightly different than previous primaries, as the rules were changed. You are definitely correct that on the 2nd ballot, if nobody wins a majority on the first, that all the delegates are free to do whatever they want.

        Disclaimer: I am not an expert, this is my lay understanding and I’m reasonably confident in it but fully expect to be corrected by someone who knows better

        • EchoChaos says:

          Are you sure?

          Mildly, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong! I’m not a Democrat and working off of things I’ve heard online.

          Here is an article that digs into it further:

          • acymetric says:

            I too got my information from things I heard online, although I couldn’t source any specific article at the moment.

            I don’t fully trust the accuracy of that article though, because they rely primarily on:

            1) An article about the GOP primary in 2016, which is totally inapplicable because it was a different party and a different election (so no reason to expect the rules to be the same)

            2) A howstuffworks article

            None of the references make a distinction between “suspended” and “formally withdrawn” which I am certain makes a difference.

            That said, I’m only ~60% confident in my own interpretation, so I’m hoping someone with real knowledge of the workings here (specific to the 2020 Dem primary rules) will jump in to correct one or both of us.

  36. Well... says:

    While we’re still talking guitars, I have another Floyd Rose question.

    A common complaint about FRs is the strings popping out of the bridge. A common solution to this I’ve seen people online suggest is to cut the strings just above the ball end but leave the extra winding on, and then use that as a way for the saddle blocks to better grip the strings.

    But this seems to be a not-officially-endorsed method. Does that mean it is bad for the saddle blocks, or at least significantly worse than the officially-endorsed method?

    (I’m in the middle of a FR restring so I figure this is a good time for me to ask.)

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      IDK. To me it sounds like a way for the saddle blocks to grip the bit of string that’s not connected to the bit under actual tension, ‘coz you cut the loop that held the ball. Doesn’t that make the string more likely to pop out?

      Honestly, I’ve only seen “string pops out of Floyd” once in the wild, and that was due to a saddle block that needed replacing. One thing I always had made sure to do, when dealing with a Floyd, is to get as much string in the bridge as will comfortably fit. I can certainly imagine that with too little string under/below the block it might slip out.

      • Well... says:

        To me it sounds like a way for the saddle blocks to grip the bit of string that’s not connected to the bit under actual tension, ‘coz you cut the loop that held the ball. Doesn’t that make the string more likely to pop out?

        That certainly seems like a possibility — but there are so many people on guitar forums and Youtube who say this is their trick that it makes me think it doesn’t happen, or else everyone would have realized this problem and abandoned the method.

        What I’m more worried about is damaging the saddle blocks. Or, now that I think about it, wearing a significantly larger groove in them than they’d have otherwise. Because the only thing worse than having strings pop out of my Floyd Rose is having to then buy new parts for it as well!

  37. johan_larson says:

    Welcome, again, to Hollywood. This time the Mad God/Executive Producer wants a movie based on a classic poem. You may choose from This Is Just to Say, Because I could not stop for Death, or Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?.

    What sort of film do you propose to make based on one of these three poems?

    • Deiseach says:

      *horror movie voiceover*

      Because I could not stop for Death…

      … he kindly stopped for me.

      From the makers of the Final Destination franchise comes an imaginative new reboot of the entire series. Now we’re getting to see Death’s side of the story.

      They tried to cheat Death. Now it’s personal!

      (Not very original, I know, but neither are most horror franchises).

      • fibio says:

        There could be a great comedy knock off where Death just can’t kill those troublesome teens. He keeps spending all day setting up overly complicated deathtraps and then when it comes to actually setting the thing off it gets a couple stages through the rube goldberg machine before something goes off script and it all comes crashing down around his ears.

        Actually, I think I just described the Roadrunner cartoons. Let’s make a movie about those!

    • Because I could not stop for Death-the Romantic Comedy!

      After high powered Emily is killed, she is visited by the suave Death who comes to take her away. Unfortunately, the car that takes him under breaks down and is temporarily replaced with a horse carriage. Under this romantic setting, they spend their slow moving trip squabbling until he confesses his love for her and she spends an eternity joining him in his grim reaper duties. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Emily Dickinson was hoping for when she wrote that poem.

    • Björn says:

      On a tangent, I love the intro of Silent Hunter IV, which cuts scenes of submarine warfare to the rythm of the poem “On Time” by John Milton.

    • Bobobob says:

      Mad professor creates hybrid plums containing Chronoplasm (TM), a genetically engineered protein that facilitate time travel. Feckless nephew eats said plums, leaves an apologetic note on the refrigerator, and spends the rest of the movie battling dinosaurs alongside Bill, Ted, and Marty McFly.

    • honoredb says:

      The days of the year walk the Earth in the guise of mortal men and women, their personalities driven by the climate and history of their days. A human artist swipes right on a young man who turns out to be June 3rd, and they strike up a hot and thunderous relationship that brings the artist into the fascinating community of the Days. But June 3rd’s intemperate side reveals itself–he’s cruel to his less complicated May siblings, hot and cold in the relationship itself, and scarred by all the violence that’s occurred on his day. The artist struggles with the idea of leaving an immortal lover for a mortal one, but ultimately resolves to render a mortal soulmate immortal via art.

    • Nick says:

      If it were straightforwardly adapted as a male poet/writer/whatever ending up in a love triangle with a young man and a lady, it could be really popular with critics. Romance! Tragedy! Wokeness! It has it all.

      (If it were even more straightforwardly adapted, would the young man be trans?)

    • b_jonas says:

      Is this question inspired by the recent “” ? (Transcript of comic strip follows because you usually can’t find one of SMBC anywhere on the web, and I like to keep context inside my posts so you don’t need to follow links to figure out what I’m saying.)

      > P (emphatically pitching to V): It’s the movie of the decade. Based on ninth-century medieval tales by Cynewulf the poet.
      > P: Constantine, emperor of Rome, is about to go into battle. Huns surround him on all sides.
      > P: Suddenly, in the sky, Constantine has a vision of the true cross.
      > P: He carries the sign of the cross into battle, scattering his foes.
      > P: His wise men tell him he must find the true cross. He sends an army, led by his mother Elene, to Jerusalem on a quest.
      > V: Wow! That’s an amazing setup! What happens next?
      > P: Well, we’ll wanna stick close to the medieval source literature, so acts 2, 3, and 4 are just torturing jews until they pony up the cross.
      > V does angry grin
      > V: How dare you! Where do you get the nerve, sir?
      > P: What?
      > V: You walk right into Hollywood and pitch an action movie with an elderly female lead?!
      > P: But–
      > V: Get out!

  38. Dino says:

    Seeing some other guitarists here recently, maybe someone can answer a question I’ve long had – why would anyone ever want a higher action? I heard that Jerry Garcia liked it high (snicker). I’ve always wanted the action to be as low as possible without buzzing. Someone once told me that a higher action gave a better sound, but I don’t see any physics/acoustics reason for that.

    • danridge says:

      I’d also love an answer to this question if anyone here actually has that preference. I could imagine that maybe there are certain techniques (bends of some kind?) which have a greater margin of error with higher action. Perhaps it’s easier to get longer sustain? My philosophy has generally been go as low as you can; if you have problems, bring it back up a little.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Funny you should bring it up.

      One of the things I did during the string change I mentioned last time was bring the action up, after trying a how-low-can-you-go setup* with the previous one.

      For me, the reason to have the action higher than just-above-string-buzz can be summed up in one word: bending.

      When you bend (or use wide finger/wrist vibrato), you generally want to have a bit of space to get your finger under the string. I find that with super-low action I’m having to use way too much finger pressure to get a good grip at the start of the bend – especially, given that I tend to use heavier strings.

      One way to deal with the issue is to have a scalloped fingerboard (indeed, that’s the main reason to have one in the first place), but taking wood out of the fingerboard will affect your tone.

      Acoustically, I can think of one sensible reason why low action might give a worse tone on an electric guitar (acoustic guitars are a different matter entirely, but there you generally won’t be changing the action too much) – except you’d deal with it by adjusting the pickups rather than the action – and one deep, dark mucky reason that might well be talking out of my rear.

      The sensible reason is that the same magnetic field that allows your pickups to do their thing can interfere with the strings vibrating and a higher action will bring them somewhat away from the magnets in the pickups. Of course, all guitars I can think of in this day and age allow you to adjust the height of the pickups (and usually the pickups have adjustable pole-pieces, too), so there’s no reason to set the action just for that.

      The mucky reason has to do with the strings causing sound waves to propagate, those sound waves hitting the fingerboard/body, being reflected and potentially interfering with the vibration when they hit the strings coming the other way.

      There’s definitely not going to be enough energy there to interfere with the fundamental vibration, but possibly, maybe it can do something to the resonant frequencies of the upper harmonics?

      I seriously doubt there’s anything there, but if we were to find that action does affect tone (after controlling for pickup height), that’s my guess as to why.

      * Pretty low, as it turns out, after finally taking the time to adjust the neck.

      • Dino says:

        When you bend (or use wide finger/wrist vibrato), you generally want to have a bit of space to get your finger under the string.

        Yeah – that makes sense. I’ve never actually had this problem because I’ve never succeeded in getting action that low. I’m envious…

    • Well... says:

      When I was was 19 I had a meth-head buddy who played guitar, and I remember he always liked real heavy gauge strings, with the action super high. (I could barely play his guitar.) The reason he liked it this way was that he played a lot of rockabilly music, and apparently (according to him anyway) that kind of setup is ideal for the rockabilly sound.

    • Machine Interface says:

      If I recall correctly, higher action means higher tension, which means clearer sound and more in tune harmonics.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        We may have a winner here.

      • Dino says:

        I agree higher action means higher tension, but that would make the pitch sharper and out of tune. I can’t think of any scientific reason why higher tension would affect the sound, or intonation of harmonics.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          It wouldn’t make the pitch sharper, any more than putting heavier strings on would. You would adjust the tension so that each string vibrates at the correct rate – otherwise known as tuning. 🙂

          The key thing is that a string doesn’t just vibrate at whatever frequency is needed for the fundamental pitch, but there are additional resonant vibrations at the frequencies corresponding to the harmonic series and these are affected by the actual tension on the strings.

          Here’s how you can test the difference: get a very light (008s or 009s) and a heavy (012) set of strings, put the light ones on the guitar and tune it down considerably (C# or C – 1 1/2 to 2 steps across the board – are good candidates). Record some stuff for comparison purposes and make a note of how the guitar plays.

          Now put the heavy set on and repeat.

          • Lambert says:

            Record the notes and take an FFT.
            Calculate Σf*fft(f)/Σfft(f)
            This gives you the spectral centroid. It’s commonly used to give a simple indication of the ‘brightness’ of a note.
            Now look at the FFT plots and calculate how many cents the overtone partials are from integer multiples of the fundemental. These are the inharmonicities, caused by nonlinear behavour of the string.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            The funny thing is that I probably have the tools to do it (and it has crossed my mind WRT the original question), but dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor guitarist not a physicist.

          • Lambert says:

            Right now I’m waiting for pyplot to cough up a spectrogram of me playing a trombone badly, so this stuff is kind of second nature.

            (It’s pretty simple if you have any experience with numpy/scipy)

          • CatCube says:


            Any recommendations for tutorials/code? I’ve played with Python plenty, but never for this application. I’m pretty good at slurping in CSVs, but I don’t even know where to start for sound files.

          • Lambert says:

            works well for me.
            note that it outputs (rate,array[the actual data]).
            I’m mostly just reading the docs and guessing.
            And hoping that the ram usage doesn’t crash my computer more than once a day.

          • Dino says:

            Guess I should have been clearer in what I said. Given 2 identical strings tuned to the same tension, the one with the higher action will sound sharper when fretted because it must be pushed down further, just as if it was “bent”. This sharpness could in theory be compensated for by adjusting the intonation, but usually only the bridge can be adjusted and I think you would need to adjust the nut.

            I know about overtones and harmonic series – I was not aware that strings had that much nonlinear behaviour dependent on tension.

          • Faza (TCM) says:


            Sorry, I misunderstood your comment.

            Those are valid concerns, but – fundamentally – my answer remains the same.

            As a violin-playing acquaintance of mine was wont to say: equal-tempered instruments are never in tune. With guitars, we can try to fudge this by adjusting the lengths of the individual strings so individual frets give us, more or less, the right notes – and then hope it isn’t too audible.

            The problem of stretching the string when fingering it exists with low action as well as with high, of course. The literature I have suggests a difference of 2/64″ (~0.8mm) at the 12-th fret between “low” and “high” action and this seems to me to be well within normal intonation adjustment range (indeed, I suspect there’s a bigger intonation difference between an ultra-light and heavy string set with the same action).

    • acymetric says:

      I’ve always heard that higher action is better for slide guitar, although Jerry wasn’t exactly famous for his slide technique. It could very well be that it was just the way he liked it…lots of musicians like weird things that don’t actually matter but make a difference to them and the way the feel/interact with the instrument.

      Another semi-ridiculous but not totally implausible idea: Some people might like higher action because it allows them to bend under neighboring strings* rather than through them. SRV would roll over in his grave, I’m sure, but not everyone has dynamite finger/hand strength.

      *Source: The first guitar I ever had was a ~30 year old Kay electric that had lived in the crawlspace under my grandparents’ house for somewhere between 10 and 40 years. The action was so high that bending under neighboring strings was the only option, and I was too young/green to know any better anyway.

  39. rj11258 says:

    Great Political Thinking 2020 is a podcast whose scripts are written by an instance of GPT-2 trained on political analysis transcripts. It’s mostly brain-melting in the ways that most of these gpt2 projects have been, but I love the commitment in fully performing and editing it like a real podcast. If I stop paying attention then it’s barely indistinguishable from regular political commentary.

    Is there something about the podcast format that we inherently more inclined to give more credence to it over written text, multimedia, or film/tv?

    • Deiseach says:

      DETROW: So maybe he’s the guy with the shiny object in his backyard.

      DAVIS: Yeah.

      DETROW: Yeah, so that’s…

      DAVIS: That was a really important point.

      DETROW: That’s an important point.

      KURTZLEBEN: Right.

      DETROW: That’s an important point.

      KURTZLEBEN: That is an important point.

      I swear, I’ve heard some talking heads/current affairs radio programmes that had exchanges exactly like this!

  40. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Joe Biden jumped to 50 delegates (vs. Bernie’s 58) by crushing Bernie in South Carolina. It’s such a rapid change that Buttgig dropped out of the race, as did Tom Steyer.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      Don’t think that’s why. It’s 50 delegates out of over a thousand. FoxNews and Trump seem to think it’s so Buttigieg voters will flock to Biden for Super Tuesday. Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

      Biden is now the youngest male candidate.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        FoxNews and Trump seem to think it’s so Buttigieg voters will flock to Biden for Super Tuesday. Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

        Aw man, he’s so rich that he owns a race horse?

      • Loriot says:

        The issue is that Buttigieg’s campaign was premised on the notion that he would be the compromise candidate to emerge from a contested convention, since he had no plausible shot of winning an outright majority, but that strategy could only work as long as he was the strongest moderate candidate. After Biden’s landslide victory in SC, and getting double Buttigieg’s delegates, it makes no sense that a brokered convention would chose Buttigieg over Biden, and thus he had no plausible path to the nomination.

        • Matt M says:

          The issue is that Buttigieg’s campaign was premised on the notion that he would be the compromise candidate to emerge from a contested convention

          People keep saying this, but I think it’s incredibly unlikely. “Contested convention” basically means “nominee will be decided in a backroom among DNC insiders.” And people think the DNC insiders are going to pick the billionaire with zero party history/loyalty, questionable racial/gender comments, and who used to be a Republican? Why, exactly, would they do that?

          IMO a contested convention is more likely to result in Hillary or Michelle Obama or Oprah than it is Bloomberg… Nobody in the DNC actually wants Bloomberg. They might even prefer Bernie to him.

          • GearRatio says:

            I suspect although I am not sure that you misread the post you are replying to – he’s talking about Mayor Pete and Biden, and you seem to be refuting him with points that are about Bloomberg.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh geez, yeah, I misread that completely. Not sure how and browser issues are preventing me from editing/deleting.

            Consider this a formal retraction/apology.

          • Loriot says:

            That’s literally the argument that Buttigieg campaigners were making to me as late as yesterday morning. I’m not making that up. That’s what his volunteers were saying. Even they didn’t think he could win an outright majority.

            Edit: Oh, you just misread the post. Nevermind.

            Interestingly, the few Bloomberg volunteers I talked to were notably lacking in enthusiasm. In fact, I didn’t see *any* yesterday. I guess that’s what happens when you try to buy your way into the race.

      • Hoopdawg says:

        Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

        Most likely. I thought it was just Sanders fans pointing this out (for quite a while now, long before Pete’s exit), but now even FiveThirtyEight is outright saying this. Buttigieg was a centrist candidate whose supporters are among the least likely to vote for Sanders instead, and may push Bloomberg/Warren up above the electoral threshold in several states. Meanwhile, the less successful candidates Warren and Klobuchar are encouraged to keep running instead, because at least the former has a significant cross-appeal with Sanders, and both still have their home states to run in and take votes away from him.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Biden is now the youngest male candidate.

        Youngest DEMOCRAT male candidate.

        Donald Trump is now the youngest man running for President in 2020 with Joe Walsh dropping out of the Republican primary.

    • Loriot says:

      Wow, that was sudden. Just this morning, I was talking to hordes of enthusiastic Buttigieg campaigners. I kind of feel sorry for them now. One mentioned that she’d been volunteering for almost ten months, ever since he launched his campaign.

    • meh says:

      Pete seemed clearly in third place by a wide margin by any measure. If he is out, what reason do anyone but Bernie and Biden have to stay in?

      • Clutzy says:


        Most presidential campaigns are grifts.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Bloomberg stays in because he’s got a shot at the nomination via contested convention. Not a great shot, since he’ll most likely have fewer pledged delegates than either Biden or Sanders, but unlike Buttigieg, Bloomberg has the money to run a credible campaign and keep accumulating delegates through June. Bloomberg also has a lot more superdelegates who owe him favors than Buttigieg does. And even if he can’t win a contested convention, he’d at least be in a good position to play kingmaker.

        • albatross11 says:

          My guess is that if the coronavirus epidemic turns out really bad, it helps Bloomberg’s campaign a lot. Competent authoritarianism has a lot more appeal in a crisis than incompetent blustering authoritarianism or liberalism of most any kind.

      • Loriot says:

        I expect Klobuchar to drop after Super Tuesday, and Bloomberg and Warren to drop out soon afterwards (assuming of course that Bloomberg does poorly on Tues like I expect).

        Anyone else who’s still running is a nutjob who doesn’t care about viability (hi Tulsi Gabbard!).

        Incidently, I actually ran into a group of Warren campaigners this morning and asked them why they were still campaigning when she clearly didn’t stand a chance. They said it was important for “everyone to be heard” and that even if Warren doesn’t win, her delegates can still influence the party platform.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I expect Klobuchar to drop after Super Tuesday

          Agreed. My read is that she’s waiting until after her home state’s primary, which she’s (narrowly) projected to win. Winning a popular vote plurality in at least one state and picking up a couple dozen delegates is a somewhat more dignified position from which to exit the race

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The DNC 2020 may have learned from GOP 2016, and are taking the necessary steps to stop Bernie.

          Pete dropped out. His support largely goes to Biden.

          Klobuchar stays in long enough to take Minnesota, stopping Bernie from taking it.

          Warren stays in indefinitely, leeching away Sanders’ support.

          Bloomberg isn’t part of the DNC and doesn’t care what they say, but he should see the writing on the wall soon.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, Amy is dropping out now, so I miss on that one.

            EDIT: Three of us made this prediction, and we all posted that we were wrong.

        • Nick says:

          The cascade of folks openly admitting their predictions were off is heartwarming!

      • Tarpitz says:

        Buttigieg has an upside to dropping out that most of the others don’t: he’s young enough that being a team player can induce the DNC and/or Biden to give him a high profile job that will make him a stronger candidate the next time he runs (and may well be appealing in its own right).

        • albatross11 says:


          Buttigieg made himself a national political figure this year, and he’s a young man with a long potential future in politics. Further, being a gay man is going to be less and less of an impediment to getting elected as time goes on. With more experience, he’d be a really strong candidate.

          The same is true of Yang, but probably less so. He got his ideas out there and established himself as someone worth listening to, and he’s also a young man.

          Tulsi also established herself, but she’s a fairly odd candidate (and person), and I don’t know what her political future looks like. If she runs third-party, she will likely burn bridges with the Democrats; otherwise, well, there are a lot of screwballs in politics, so I’m sure there’s room for one more.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It’ll be interesting to see whether he sticks around Indiana. Being there is a big impediment to getting the sort of job from which he can launch a more credible run next time.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            Yeah, who ever heard of a politician from Indiana being tapped for a major government post

          • baconbits9 says:

            Seems like Pete has a shot at the vice presidency if Biden takes the primary. He could even be the nominee in 4 years if Biden takes it all with Joe’s age.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            My point (it should hardly be necessary to point out) is not that people are reluctant to consider anyone from Indiana for high national office, but that people are reluctant to consider anyone whose highest qualification is being the former mayor of South Bend. Pence was governor before he was VP; Buttigieg is never going to be governor of anyplace so long as that anyplace is Indiana.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            My post was light-hearted sarcasm. I agree with you that he doesn’t have a chance to win state-wide office (and he got clobbered the one time he tried).

            Moving to another state would give him a chance to grow into intermediate office, but it would also hurt his major appeal which is standing for the Rust Belt.

        • Loriot says:

          Klobuchar is still relatively young and a popular senator to boot. She has a future outside of this election.

      • BBA says:

        For Bloomberg, ego, which is most of the reason why he ran himself instead of throwing money at an existing centrist campaign.

        For Warren, spite. Most of her remaining support comes from Hillary hardliners who want to stick it to Bernie for not dropping out in 2016 when he wasn’t viable.

        For Klobuchar and the rest, who knows.

      • John Schilling says:

        If he is out, what reason do anyone but Bernie and Biden have to stay in?

        Given a choice between being seen as a loser and being seen as a quitter, which would you prefer? Sports teams give their best effort, or something close to it, to the very end of lopsided games where any hope of a comeback victory is lost, and the same holds in politics. Losing well gets more respect than quitting.

        So, the question isn’t what reason they have to stay in the race, but what reason they would ever have to quit. The two common answers are, first, running out of money when the donors drifted away and a continued campaign would look even more pathetic than quitting, or second, as Tarpitz notes, a tacit deal in which they are positioned for a better chance at winning in the next contest.

        Bloomberg, isn’t going to run out of money and he isn’t ever going to get a better shot at the oval office than this, so he’s in it to the end. The others will (or did) leave when the money dries up, with a bit of margin for optimizing future prospects.

      • herbert herberson says:

        There’s speculation that Warren is staying in to keep her voters from going to Bernie.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      Speaking of the Democratic primaries,  I just read a piece from February 28th by Olivia Nuzzi, on the South Carolina primary, that I found too hilarious not to share:

      ‘”Joe Biden is gonna kick ass here because this is a normal place,” Dick Harpootlian said. “No shit.” A member of the South Carolina State Senate and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, Harpootlian, who has known Biden since the late 1980s, was an early supporter of his third presidential campaign.

      “He’s a normal guy,” he said, by way of explanation.

      After a long day at the statehouse listening to his fellow lawmakers filibuster, he met me for coffee at Drip on Main Street in Columbia.

      “Iowa is like — you watch Game of Thrones?” he asked. I said I didn’t. “Well, that’s too bad,” he said. He took a sip of his latte.

      “Iowa’s like the area north of the wall where the White Walkers and the weird people are, okay? I knocked doors out there.” He gestured to his aide. “He knocked doors out there!” he said. “They’re not normal people, okay? And I’ve knocked doors in New Hampshire. They’re worse. If you’re snowed in, like, eight months a year, you’re not gonna be normal, okay?”

      He laughed. “By the way, I wonder what the incest rate is in Iowa. I bet it’s high! Really high. Like any part of Appalachia where nobody can get in.”

      His aide groaned, letting out an anguished “Noooooo.”.” He leaned down to speak into my recorder. “For the record, this is Harpootlian saying this about the incest,” the aide said. Then added, “I’m not.” (Earlier this month, the Biden campaign was forced to distance itself from Harpootlian after the former party chair was accused of making racially insensitive remarks — a characterization he challenged. The Biden campaign said that Harpootlian is not an official representative.)

      Harpootlian seemed satisfied with the reaction. “They’re not normal,” he went on. “When I say normal: They’re not like the rest of the country, like, as a group. Biden’s gonna win double digits here. And on Super Tuesday, he’ll do well in the normal states.” (By “normal,” I understood Harpootlian to be referring to demographically diverse states — versus the extremely white state of Iowa and New Hampshire.)

      There are no statistics by which to verify Harpootlian’s assumptions about incest rates in states outside of his own…’

      ‘…Even Lindsey Graham agrees with Harpootlian’s prediction (about the primary, not the incest). On Fox News Thursday evening, Graham said Biden would emerge from South Carolina with a double-digit victory.

      Harpootlian tells two stories about Biden to anybody who will listen. He prefaces both stories by saying that he never tells the stories, and that if Biden knew he was going around telling the stories, he’d kill him.

      The first story is about a golf outing when Biden was the vice-president. He was driving the golf cart, and Biden told him to move over. “I never get to drive anything,” Harpootlian recalled Biden saying, “I can’t drive a car. When I play golf with Barack, he drives. I’m driving the cart. Move over.” Harpootlian laughed. “So, I move over, and he drives the cart. Not very well, I might add.”

      Later, at lunch, Harpootlian said he apologized to Biden for his bad golf game. “He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, Dick. Don’t worry about it. You know, I learned a lot today.’ I said, ‘Mr. Vice-President, what could you possibly have learned from me today?’ He said, ‘Oh, five new ways to use the word fuck.’”

      A few weeks later, Harpootlian said, Biden had his infamous “big fucking deal” gaffe during Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act. When he saw Biden next, Harpootlian said Biden pointed at him and said, “Your fault!”..’

      Better than The Onion!

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      Well, I’m finding this pretty exciting (nor least because wirh our now earlier primary California will have some influence this year!), and what’s striking to me is the racial, religious, and age divide so far, that is younger less church-attending Latinos supporting Sanders, and older more church-attending blacks supporting Biden, non-college educated whites either supporting Sanders if younger than 40, and Biden if older than 60, with college educated and middle-aged (40 to 60) white voters having less importance so far.

      Since black American voters are on average older than Latino voters I suspect that difference in who those demographic groups support may just be a generational difference more than anything else.

      I was struck be a description in of Warren’s base of support being “white liberals with college educations and those who use Twitter a lot”, and how few delegates she has earned so far, other than other Mayors and “never Trump” Romney Republicans (like my wife) I don’t know who Bloomberg’s base is.

      Out of “battleground states” if Biden’s the nominee I see a chance for Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and maybe Florida voting Blue.

      If Sanders is the Nominee he’ll get Michigan, and maybe Arizona, and (big stretch) Texas, with little chance for Florida and Virginia.

      I expect Bloomberg and Warren to pick up some delegates from California today, but mostly they will be for Sanders, as will be the ones from Texas.

      Except for Texas I’m guessing that Biden will sweep the South, and this will go long and look like 2008 and 2016 rather than 2004 when Kerry got an early lead.

      Bloomberg may win in Florida in the general election, but for the Democratic primaries his base is too small.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Looking back at recent polls on FiveThirtyEight:

        It looks like NC is closer than I expected, but so is Virginia, so that’s nice.

        As a surprise, so is Colorado, with Trump within 3 points of Biden. Colorado is a great bellwether for moderate white suburbs, so Trump being that close there has to be good news for those of us hoping for his reelection.

        New Hampshire actually shows movement towards Trump, with him having sizable leads out there, especially over Bloomberg, showing that “Live Free or Die” takes precedence over party with Bloomberg’s authoritarianism.

        I’d say your analysis is pretty solid with missing the movement of the very white states of New Hampshire and Colorado back towards Republicans.

        • Plumber says:

          Oh jeez I didn’t expect Colorado and New Hampshire! 

          Going by, well me, Bloomberg does poorly among white non-college educated males and there’s no way the Rust Belt goes blue again with him, but judging by, well my wife, college educated suburban white women (she’s actually not white and she grew up in the city, but close enough) would go for Bloomberg, but not for Sanders. 

          Other than older southern black voters Biden doesn’t have many who’re enthusiastic for him, I like him, he’s a good cultural fit for me, but I’m seeing far less “Joe” signs than “Bernie”, “Tulsi”, and “Warren” (in that order) yard signs.

          Really Biden’s strength is in not alienating many folks (and no one thinks he’s a great intellect), “nice guy, but. ..” is about all anyone says about Biden. 

          There’s lots of enthusiasm for Sanders,  and a lot of fear.

          Personally, I just don’t expect much change in the status quo from now (or from 2015 either) if Trump is re-elected or if any of the other candidates is elected instead (unless a lot of Supreme Court Justices die), as Congress is more important and I expect divided government and gridlock for at least a decade more, but if Sanders is nominated, and it isn’t a McGovern in ’72 or Mondale in ’84 blowout, then, yeah, it really would mark a generational change, and really I wonder what Sanders ascent foretells, will he be a McGovern who’s followed by the less Left Carter and Clinton, or will Sanders be more like a Goldwater followed by a Reagan?

          Trump really did campaign as a different kind of Republican (different enough to win the Rust Belt), but Bernie, Biden, and Bloomberg really do seem quite different to me (though without Congress also changing there still wouldn’t be much difference in how they’d actually govern).

          So what each of the “three B’s” would symbolize; 

          Bernie: second coming of Henry Wallace in ’48, with him the Democrats are the young Leftists party, maybe the end of “the big tent”, the House goes Republican.

          Biden: the last gasp of the old Democratic Party, almost like George H. W. Bush was for the old Republican Party. 

          Bloomberg: Democrats are now “Rockefeller Republicans”, and the Party of the professional class, and I kinda doubt that most black Americans stay in the Democratic Party much longer, and I’d expect more Tim Scott’s.

          The first option is unprecedented (Truman followed F.D.R., not Wallace) so I can’t guess, and while the third option goes against my instincts and loyalties, maybe that route would be the best for our Nation’s racial divides.

          • Chalid says:

            Oh jeez I didn’t expect Colorado and New Hampshire

            You shouldn’t take state polls seriously yet as there are not enough of them. eg. according to FiveThirtyEight, Colorado general election matchups have been polled just once in 2020 and the poll had just 485 responses. This is simply not enough evidence for you to need to change your mind about anything.

  41. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan review #15: Red Nails
    Originally published in the July through October issues of Weird Tales this was the last Conan story sold by Howard. He mailed it to editor Farnsworth Wright in July of 1935, at which time his ailing mother had major medical expenses and Wright already owed him $800 for stories already published. On February 11, 1936, he wrote to HP Lovecraft,

    “As for my own fantasy writing, whether or not I do any future work in that field depends a good deal on the editors themselves. I would hate to abandon weird writing entirely, but my financial needs are urgent, immediate and imperious.”

    (At the time of his 1936 suicide, Howard was mostly making his living as a writer of Westerns, with three different magazines having a backlog of monthly stories to publish. He was an incredibly prolific writer despite markets seeming to push him away from his muse. Before barbarians, his inspirations had included such forms as poetry and boxing stories. No wonder that his only known girlfriend, Novalyne Price, was introduced to him as someone who could show her how to become a published writer.)

    We start from the POV of Valeria, “of the Red Brotherhood, whose deeds are celebrated in song and ballad wherever seafarers gather.” Despite being a pirate, she’s acquired a horse, on which she’s fled into rain forest after knifing a would-be rapist. A mile to her south, she sees the rain forest thin out abruptly into cactus-dotted desert… with a walled city! Suddenly she hears someone rustling the leaves behind her:
    “Conan, the Cimmerian!” ejaculated the woman. “What are you doing on my trail?”

    Among the pre-king stories, we can tell this one is late in his career, since elsewhere it was something of a cliche that he had to tell people “I am Conan, a Cimmerian.”
    So he’s followed her from the southern border of Stygia where the knifing happened.

    “If I’d been there, I’d have knifed him myself. But if a woman must live in the war camps of men, she can expect such things.”
    Valeria stamped her booted foot and swore.
    “Why won’t men let me live a man’s life?”
    “That’s obvious!” Again his eager eyes devoured her. “But you were wise to run away.”

    He goes on to explain that the rapist’s brother followed her for revenge, and he helpfully caught up with the brother and killed him. So all this, including Conan the Orbiter, could have been avoided if she’d disguised herself as a man.
    They exchange insults along the line of “penniless vagabond!”

    “Where are the fine ships and the bold lads you commanded now?” she sneered.
    “At the bottom of the sea, mostly,” he replied cheerfully. “The Zingarans sank my last ship off the Shemite shore — that’s why I joined Zarallo’s Free Companions. But I saw I’d been stung when we marched to the Darfar border. The pay was poor and the wine was sour, and I don’t like black women.

    Since the last time Howard wrote about people of Darfar they were trying to EAT Conan and he doesn’t mention “being cannibals” as a reason he doesn’t like their women, I infer the cannibals are a cult, not the whole ethnicity. So that’s nice at least.
    One thing I like about the dialogue here is how Howard economically conveys someone other than Conan having wide-ranging adventures. Just a couple of sentences can convey that Valeria was a pirate until her captain tried to make her his mistress, so she jumped ship while anchored in one country and wound her way to another, finding mercenary work.
    Conan, though, is being too pushy to come off as a good guy: he says he “won’t leave empty-handed” and when Valeria pulls a sword on him, he brags of being such a superior fighter that he can take it and spank her with the flat. At least Howard tells us “No living man could disarm Valeria of the Brotherhood with his bare hands”, so Conan comes across as a braggart and not a horny Marty Stu.
    Their unpleasant banter is interrupted by the sound of something killing their horses. It’s a dragon! Or rather a carnivorous dinosaur, though one that resembles a Stegosaurus, or at least an ankylosaurid with a thagomizer. But that’s as close as Conan got to fighting a dragon until pastiche authors came along.
    Even at this stage in his career and with another adventurer who’s, if not his peer, in the ballpark, Conan assumes they can’t fight it and they must retreat up a crag beyond its reach on hind legs. Of course we know Conan and Valeria will overcome it with violence, but it’s interesting that even with a partner Conan never assumes he’s leveled up into a dragon-slayer. The dino’s even said to be so tough that they’d break swords on its armor.
    Since they have trees on the crag, Valeria asks if they can’t swing away through the branches like apes. Conan says he’s read the Tarzan books too, but no luck: the branches are too light to support her weight. Bored, hungry and with Conan touching her, Valeria scans the environment and finds fruit… but it’s the Apples of the Queen of the Dead. You can see where this is going: they drive off the dino with poison fruit jabbed in its mouth at the end of a weapon.
    Now onto the city, with the poisoned dino chasing them. On the way, Conan makes food out of cactus.

    “I was a kozak before I was a pirate,” … “It’s food and drink to a desert man. I was a chief of the Zuagirs once — desert men who live by plundering the caravans.”
    “Is there anything you haven’t done?” inquired the girl, half in derision and half in fascination.
    “I’ve never been king of an Hyborean kingdom,” he grinned, taking an enormous mouthful of cactus. “But I’ve dreamed of being even that. I may be too, some day. Why shouldn’t I?”

    Mystery is raised by the fact that there are no farms around the city, no hoofprints, no road. Yet there are ancient irrigation ditches. The gate is rusted and has cobwebs. Valeria hopes to find treasure gathering dust and cobwebs.
    “The opened gate, or door, gave directly into a long, broad hall which ran away and away until its vista grew indistinct in the distance.” The whole city will turn out to be a dungeon crawl. The walls are jade-coated, the vaulted ceiling of lapis lazuli, adorned with green stones that gleam with a poisonous radiance. There’s also daylight, via skylights of “translucent sheets of some crystalline substance.” Balustraded galleries reveal the walled city to be a great four-storied house. Checking rooms, the furnishings are precious and not collecting dust. Noticing friezes, Valeria asks what race the people in them belong to. Sadly, the answer is not “sapient crinoids.”

    “I never saw people exactly like them. But there’s the smack of the East about them — Vendhya,” she asks with snark if he was a king out there. “No. But I was a war chief of the Afghulis who live in the Himelian mountains above the borders of Vendhya.”
    Valeria complains that the deserting population must have taken all their treasures with them, a strange complaint when they could strip the walls and ceilings of precious materials. Suddenly, Valeria sees a man, who strangely in no way resembles the figures depicted on the friezes. Sneaking after him into another room, she finds him dead and spies another man. The second man is threatened by a bone-white muscleman with a bare skull for a head, like Belit and Skeletor had a baby. She decapitates the apparition for him, breaking a spell: it was a brown person with a mop of black hair. The Distressed Dude, Techotl, infodumps names on Valeria as he thanks her: this is Xuchotl, where the people of Xotalanc and Tecuhltli fight each other.
    (These names are meant to be Uto-Aztecan, which makes a pun of Conan identifying the builders as Vendhyan/Indian.)
    There’s a fight scene, whose resolution explains the title: “Five crimson nails for the black pillar! The gods of blood be thanked!” Techotl’s side records their kills with red nails in an ebony pillar. Valeria and Conan are implored to follow silently back to the safety of Tecuhltli, because wandering monsters… er, Xotalancas could ambush anywhere. They are indeed attacked in the dark, Conan’s sword striking “the Crawler! A monster they have brought out of the catacombs to aid them!”
    Our heroes are introduced to the prince and princess of this small weird tribe, Olmec and Tascela. The way the latter eyes Valeria is hinted to be lesbianism. Conan lets slip that they stopped a dragon with poison, which makes a shocked Olmec exposit that the thousand men of their migrating ancestors came inside Xuchotl with the women and children for fear of the “invincible” dragons. Only a few hundred people dwelt there, and a vengeful slave named Tolkemec let the immigrants in, in exchange for the captured natives being turned over to him. As to the natives:

    “their magicians made a terrible magic to guard the city; for by their necromantic arts they re-created the dragons which had once dwelt in this lost land, and whose monstrous bones they found in the forest. Those bones they clothed in flesh and life, and the living beasts walked the earth as they walked it when time was young.”

    “So for many centuries the people of Xuchotl dwelt in their city, cultivating the fertile plain, until their wise men learned how to grow fruit within the city — fruit which is not planted in soil, but obtains its nourishment out of the air — and then they let the irrigation ditches run dry and dwelt more and more in luxurious sloth, until decay seized them. They were a dying race when our ancestors broke through the forest and came into the plain. Their wizards had died, and the people had forgot their ancient necromancy.”

    “For a few years, then, they dwelt at peace within the city, doing little but eating, drinking, and making love, and raising children. There was no necessity to till the plain, for Tolkemec taught them how to…” work the hydroponics. Then brother leaders started fighting over a woman. Since then, the dungeon has been divided into feuding factions: “Tecuhltli dwelt in the western quarter of the city, Xotalanc in the eastern, and Tolkemec with his family by the southern gate.” Though “Twelve years ago we butchered the people of Tolkemec,” — aw come on, wiping out the third faction before the Player Characters arrive is bad dungeon design.

    “Now we of Tecuhltli number only these you see before you, and the men who guard the four doors: forty in all. How many Xotalancas there are we do not know, but I doubt if they are much more numerous than we. For fifteen years no children have been born to us, and we have seen none among the Xotalancas.”

    Valeria and Conan agree to kill the Xotalancas in exchange for all the jewels they can carry away. They’re shown to bedrooms, where Conan is told that beautiful young Tascela is the woman the feud has been fought over for 45 years… she’s a witch whose spell of youth is a dark secret.
    Valeria sleeps happy that the NPCs split the party, but that was just an excuse to imperil an isolated hero: she finds Tascela’s maid drugging her with a black lotus. She leaps awake:

    “You sulky slut!” [Valeria] said between her teeth. “I’m going to strip you stark naked and tie you across that couch and whip you until you tell me what you were doing here, and who sent you!”

    … and that’s exactly what we see until Yasala the maid says she’ll tell all, but she begs for a drink. Untied, she throws it in Valeria’s face and flees, into the catacombs. Where an inhuman sound makes her go “Ahhh!”
    Elsewhere, Conan leaps into action because the enemy has entered Tecuhltli due to magical piping. It’s noted that the women on both sides fight as madly as the men. Tascela and Valeria rejoin the scene. Tecuhltli defeats the outnumbered enemy, surmised to be desperate. Conan goes to evaluate the hypothesis that they’re extinct. Conan’s escort is told by Olmec to kill him, which of course fails. Apparently it was so Olmec could take Valeria. Stalking to the rescue, he finds Olmec strapped into a torture device. Tascela had betrayed him to get Valeria, who she intends to sacrifice to prolong her youth. So perhaps it wasn’t lesbianism after all: the spell requires beautiful young women, and maybe Tascela had run out in the city.
    Conan finds Valeria naked on an altar, similar to the cover scene. Alas, the door has a hidden bear trap. Then Tolkemec saunters into the room for vengeance. In the lean hand of Tolkemec waved a jade-hued wand, on the end of which glowed a knob shaped like a pomegranate. He shoots a death ray from it. When only he, Conan, Valeria, and Tascela are alive, the last deactivates the trap Conan’s in so he can save her. Conan twists aside as the death ray fires again (save vs. death ray!) and fatally throws a knife. Tascela dives for the wand and Valeria stabs her to death while she’s prone.
    Now here comes the cliche about treasure we’ve been expecting:

    I don’t want any of their accursed jewels. They might be haunted.”
    “There is enough clean loot in the world for you and me,” she said,

    Now she consents to kiss him, and the story ends with a line of Conan’s dialogue boasting of future pillage. Yep, that cliche too.

    So ends the last fantasy story written by Robert E. Howard, though we still have a ways to go since that’s not our reading order. But we should remember it as we ask how well he conveyed his ideas within the form of a fantasy story.
    Two-Gun Bob’s words to chaste gentlemanly friend H.P. Lovecraft:

    “The last yarn I sold to Weird Tales –and it well may be the last fantasy I’ll ever write– was a three-part Conan serial which was the bloodiest and most sexy weird story I ever wrote. I have been dissatisfied with my handling of decaying races in stories, for the reason that degeneracy is so prevalent in such races that it can not be ignored as a motive and as a fact if the fiction is to have any claim to realism. I have ignored it in all other stories, as one of the taboos, but I did not ignore it in this story…”

    More bluntly, to Novalyne Price:

    I’m working on a yarn like that now — a Conan yarn. … When you have a dying civilization, the normal, accepted life style ain’t strong enough to satisfy the damned insatiable appetites of the courtesans and, finally, of all the people. They turn to Lesbianism and things like that to satisfy their desires…

    This isn’t clearly conveyed, for Tascela’s lust for Valeria involves the latter’s youth and beauty being “spell components”, so to say, and V. isn’t approached by other lesbian suitors (though there’s some vague touching). Further, for something Howard believed was a real-world phenomenon, “decaying/dying civilization” is under-defined here. The people we meet in Xuchotl were immigrants fifty years ago and degenerated into a blood feud only five years after arriving.
    Well regardless, it’s a heck of a story. It prefigures Dungeons & Dragons more than any other Conan yarn, with a vitality that would be impossible for any writer to replicate after that game.
    Your thoughts?

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s a very despairing story, despite Conan and Valeria surviving and heading off to pursue a life of pillage and free love; the original people of the city dwindled down into such a feeble state that the influx of strangers was easily able to overpower and replace them. But the newcomers, instead of bringing vigour and renewal, themselves fell into the same trap of luxury and ease, started a stupid civil war over a love triangle, and within the space of only about fifty years have been so vicious and self-genocidal that they’ve reduced their own numbers down to a handful which all end up destroying each other, not to mention their ingratitude for turning on the guy who let them into the city in the first place and taught them how to use its technology. Generally it takes millenia or at least a few centuries for a people to get to this degree of decadence and self-destruction, but for the Xuchotl folk it all happened within one human lifetime.

      Valeria may be right when she says to take nothing from it, that the city is cursed.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        the original people of the city dwindled down into such a feeble state that the influx of strangers was easily able to overpower and replace them. But the newcomers, instead of bringing vigour and renewal, themselves fell into the same trap of luxury and ease, started a stupid civil war over a love triangle, and within the space of only about fifty years have been so vicious and self-genocidal that they’ve reduced their own numbers down to a handful which all end up destroying each other, not to mention their ingratitude for turning on the guy who let them into the city in the first place and taught them how to use its technology.

        As you say, it’s a very despairing story, and it gnaws at me because what it means is unclear. Best I can figure, Xuchotl is structurally decadent. Unlike the trope of Germanic tribes replacing Roman decadence with a new culture, the newcomers to Xuchotl are auto-decadent. That would explain why Conan and Valeria are afraid to cart off a wall or ceiling as loot.
        So why is it structurally like that? The advanced technology? Was Howard trying to say with stuff like the hydroponics that he feared any civilization more advanced than the 1930s would lose all vigor?
        Ultimately though I don’t feel like getting too deep into this, as it’s not a worldview that holds up to as much scrutiny as, say, Lovecraft’s beliefs.

        Generally it takes millenia or at least a few centuries for a people to get to this degree of decadence and self-destruction, but for the Xuchotl folk it all happened within one human lifetime.


        despite Conan and Valeria surviving and heading off to pursue a life of pillage and free love;

        The view of sexuality here is funny. Howard sees homosexuality as a form of decadence, but how clean-limbed men and women are supposed to have relations isn’t clear. Conan’s behavior is somewhere between hook-up culture and serial monogamy. It never has the clarity of its influence Edgar Rice Burroughs, who basically wrote romance novels from the male perspective and so glorified monogamous True Love.

        • Nornagest says:

          Howard sees homosexuality as a form of decadence, but how clean-limbed men and women are supposed to have relations isn’t clear.

          I always got the impression, reading these stories, that Howard wasn’t too clear on that either. Sure, the Conan stories are consistently lusty and kinky almost as often, but in a bubbly, boyish kind of way — it’s a depiction of what a hot-blooded yet honorable barbarian gets up to in his free time that you might expect from a fourteen-year-old kid without Internet access, and that’s fairly clear even though Howard discreetly fades to black for anything raunchier than bruising kisses. And I don’t think this is just 1920s cultural prudery, either, I think Howard was genuinely uncomfortable and out of his depth.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            This made me realize that my favorite Conan novels were not written by Howard but by Jordan. Jordan, as far as I can remember was much more comfortable writing the boudoir (and altar, hur hur hur) scenes, althought on the other hand it might’ve been the Russian translator.

          • Nornagest says:

            Jordan was more comfortable with the bedroom scenes, but I’d credit the translator with any other virtues the books you read might have. Jordan was nowhere near as good a prose stylist as Howard when he was writing those books — he wasn’t even as good at the peak of his career, writing Wheel of Time.

            (Although that’s a considerably smaller gap. If I didn’t know they were by the same author, I wouldn’t have guessed, although the spankings would have been a clue.)

          • Spookykou says:

            I found the opening of Wheel of time “we are stuck in an eternal repeating cycle, lets sit down and watch one random rotation” such a huge turn off that I couldn’t continue with the book. Does anyone, anywhere think that is a good opening?

          • EchoChaos says:


            Wheel of Time is one of my favorite series, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it, so… yes?

          • Spookykou says:

            It feels like front loading an equivalent of the ‘it was all a dream’ ending, something like ‘none of this matters’, maybe the author breaks the cycle, I don’t know, I wasn’t willing to invest the time after being told I was about to read somebodies ‘dream’. A lot of books end up more or less where they started, it is common in fiction, but telling me to my face you are going to do that just kills my interest in the events, even if I can normally assume it to be the case. Do you really think the book is worse if it just opens on the road, and they gradually reveal the circular nature of the universe?

            Thinking about it more, I also really don’t enjoy the, opening on high powered crazy shit, rewind to farm boy, but seriously stick around because we will eventually get back to that high powered crazy shit! I don’t consume fiction explicitly for high powered crazy shit, I can enjoy it when done well, but it does nothing to hook me in and the method is jarring. I’m perfectly happy to read a book about a farm boy.

            It reminds me a bit of a deeply bizarre conversation I had with someone who recommend the anime Overlord to me solely on the basis that the main character was “like so crazy overpowered, it’s awesome!”.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            > opening of Wheel of time “we are stuck in an eternal repeating cycle, lets sit down and watch one random rotation”

            Opening is slightly dishonest because there appears to be an actual chance that the Dark One will prevail, break the cycle and remake the Wheel in his image.

            > recommend the anime Overlord to me solely on the basis that the main character was “like so crazy overpowered, it’s awesome!”.

            Sometimes it can be fun to `turn off the brain` and just watch an OP character dish the damage. Overlord *tries* to show actual challenges to an OP character and it sometimes is interesting — but Momonga’s real challenge is not in defeating his enemies but in finding himself and his posse a place in the world that he would like.

            it’s kinda like One Punch Man — there is no doubt Saitama will win with one punch, the real challenge is that he is playing videogames and noone bothers to page him because the bureaucracy does not recognize him as S-class hero anyway, which I personally find hilarious.

          • Spookykou says:


            I am having a hard time parsing your response.

            Is the opening of Wheel of Time a good way to open a story, is the story better for it? My impression is that it is almost to the point of being objectively wrong. Sure it’s art, it’s all subjective, you don’t have to help me suspend my disbelief any more than you have to pretend like the events in your story will have consequences.

            A related example, one thing I didn’t like about Star Wars episode 7 is that it undoes the work of 4-6, Oh the rebels won the war against the evil empire, lets all move forward thirty years in time to a point where the rebels are fighting the evil empire again. Is that really what Porkins died for?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:


            (Although that’s a considerably smaller gap. If I didn’t know they were by the same author, I wouldn’t have guessed, although the spankings would have been a clue.)

            I’m morbidly curious about this tangent, as the only Robert Jordan book I own is The Eye of the World (Barnes & Noble leather bound edition). While he was by no means a bad prose stylist by that point, he’s like an anti-master of economy of prose/tight writing/whatever, and in particular is infamous for padding the Wheel of Time series with descriptions of clothes. Knowing that he got his start writing Conan novels just reminds me of passages like this from the legendary off-brand pastiche The Eye of Argon:

            Adorning the torso’s of both of the sentries were thin yet sturdy hauberks, the breatplates of which were woven of tightly hemmed twines of reinforced silver braiding. Cupping the soldiers’ feet were thick leather sandals, wound about their shins to two inches below their knees. Wrapped about their waists were wide satin girdles, with slender bladed poniards dangling loosely from them, the hilts of which featured scarlet encrusted gems. Resting upon the manes of their heads, and reaching midway to their brows were smooth copper morions. Spiraling the lower portion of the helmet were short, up-curved silver spikes, while a golden hump spired from the top of each basinet. Beneath their chins, wound around their necks, and draping their clad shoulders dangled regal purple satin cloaks, which flowed midway to the soldiers feet.

            (The hero murders these nameless mooks only a few sentences after they’re introduced via their clothes.)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I didn’t have any comments for this one besides “good yarn” and a thanks for writing the review.

    • broblawsky says:

      I couldn’t really get into this one. The Xuchotlese don’t really click for me as a culture; they seem more like a lesson Howard constructed to express his beliefs.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Xuchotlese don’t really click for me as a culture; they seem more like a lesson Howard constructed to express his beliefs.

        Yeah, that’s a thing. This one is almost half a novel (in the late 1960s, when novels were shorter, it shared its page count with just the long “Beyond the Black River” and one short story/novelette) and it was consciously slower to get through than “People of the Black Circle”, which I assume had a similar word count.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Conan review #16: “Jewels of Gwahlur
      First published in the March 1935 issue of Weird Tales. It didn’t make cover money.

      Conan is climbing a 300-foot cliff. Why is he climbing a 300-foot cliff? He wants treasure. There’s a little niche of a cave near the top, which contains a mummy. Conan, “late of the Baracha Isles, of the Black Coast, and of many other climes”, doesn’t want a mummy. However, there’s a roll of parchment that seems important. Then he reaches the top, a mesa a few miles in diameter with a lost city called Alkmeenon. He seeks to rob the poor kingdom of Keshan of its lost treasure, under the cover story of offering his services as a General or master Drill Sergeant to train its army against its rival Punt, that fabled land of the gods the Egyptians, er, Stygians import incense from. But things got more complicated. Thutmekri the Stygian came in with an embassy from Zembabwei, telling the Keshan rulers that Punt had recently expelled the Zembabwan traders and burned their fortresses, so hey, we’ll help you conquer them but you can annex all the territory… just give us some of those lost Teeth of Gwahlur to seal the treaty in our temple, alongside the foreign idols. Conan decided to go use his Climb skill because the high priest Gorulga declared that their (sigh) White Goddess, the Oracle of Alkmeenon, must be asked what to do. Conan and Thutmekri know each other and Conan expects his rival to steal the jewels when the high priest lets the embassy in here, then run off, double-crossing the king of Zembabwei, whom he has believing he’ll win a war of expansion. Whew.
      So now Conan is there ahead of them, and among the ruins he finds the golden throne of Alkmeenon. “He weighed it with a practised eye. It represented a fortune in itself, if he were but able to bear it away.” Aw yeah, that’s a Player Character. In the next room, he finds the body of a woman on an ivory dais. She’s motionless as Conan taps the dais with sword, fruitlessly hoping it’s a hollow treasure chest. He also finds a secret alcove, where a priest can throw their voice to be the oracle.
      He puzzles over the parchment:

      “In his roaming about the world the giant adventurer had picked up a wide smattering of knowledge, particularly including the speaking and reading of many alien tongues. Many a sheltered scholar would have been astonished at the Cimmerian’s linguistic abilities, for he had experienced many adventures where knowledge of a strange language had meant the difference between life and death.”

      He gathered that the writer, the mysterious Bit-Yakin, had come from afar with his servants, and entered the valley of Alkmeenon.”

      The scroll is in “archaic Pelishtic”, which is apparently a chronolect of Semitic, which Conan speaks and is literate in (language #10! 2 remain unaccounted for).
      Suddenly he hears a gong. Fearing company, he finds it… with no one around. Beneath the gong the polished marble flagstones splinter under him and he falls into icy black water.
      He discovers metal ladders at regular intervals in the subterranean river and makes his way out. What is this, a modern swimming pool? Where would the water table be in a 300-foot-high mesa?
      When he makes it back to the room with the woman’s body… she’s alive! “She sat up with a supple ease, still holding his ensorcelled stare.” She tries to command him, but he figures out that she’s really Muriela, the slave girl of Zargheba, another foreign notable in Zembabwei’s embassy. He must have sent her here in advance of the priestly party as part of a plan to fool the locals. Seeing his anger, she throws her arms around him and pleads that she was forced to impersonate the oracle.

      “Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!” rumbled Conan. “Do you not fear the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?”

      OK, that’s pretty funny.

      It turns out that Gwarunga, a priest (not the high priest), is in on Thutmekri and Zargheba’s scheme, and revealed a hidden cave they could use to beat the main party (and even Conan the Climber) here. Conan says he’ll free her from slavery if she makes a change of plans:

      When the priests come, you’ll act the part of Yelaya, as Zargheba planned — it’ll be dark, and in the torchlight they’ll never know the difference. But you’ll say this to them: ‘It is the will of the gods that the Stygian and his Shemitish dogs be driven from Keshan. They are thieves and tratiors who plot to rob the gods. Let the Teeth of Gwahlur be placed in the care of the general Conan. Let him lead the armies of Keshan.

      He skulks off to hunt Zargheba, but someone has decapitated him.
      Seeing the priestly party approach, he Moves Silently back in to watch them from behind the secret panel he found earlier. She does as he told her. Then the party moves off save Gwarunga, who throttles Muriela. Conan tries to kill him but he twists and only gets knocked out by the force of the flat. Good dexterity on that guy. Conan pauses to coup de grace him, but Muriela screams… and disappears, replaced by the incorrupt dead body of Yelaya the goddess. He opens a secret door she must have been dragged through. Beyond, he finds falling stone traps, which scare him into looking for another route. Backtracking, Yelaya had again vanished! And so did the man he didn’t kill.
      Hiding in shadows, he follows the high priest and friends, and sees them confronted by Yelaya. She tells them:

      Alkmeenon is no longer holy, because it has been desecrated by blasphemers. Give the Teeth of Gwahlur into the hands of Thutmekri, the Stygian, to place in the sanctuary of Dagon and Derketo. Only this can save Keshan from the doom the demons of the night have plotted. Take the Teeth of Gwahlur and go; return instantly to Keshia; there give the jewels to Thutmekri, and seize the foreign devil Conan and flay him alive in the great square.

      When the priests leave to obey, he sneaks up on Yeyala… and she’s dead! What is this, Weekend at Yeyala’s? A black shape attacks in the dark. Conan fights, not knowing it’s Gwarunga until he’s dead. He moves into another room. “staring for ever toward the arched doorway, sat the monstrous and obscene Pteor, the god of the Pelishti, wrought in brass, with his exaggerated attributes reflecting the grossness of his cult. And in his lap sprawled …” Muriela. Her wrists are chained to the Priapic idol’s gold armbands.
      Whoa. Was Howard daring Margaret Bondage to paint an unpublishable cover for this issue?

      Muriela was grabbed by hairy gray apes that walk like humans. It turns out that’s what Bit-Yakin’s servants were. Conan says he learned from the scroll that Bit-Yakin and his apes came here after it was abandoned, and found Princess Yayela’s dead body. He made an oracle of it, himself proving the voice. He ate Yayela’s offerings, while his apes used the ladders in the subterranean river to fish for human corpses, whose source is the funerals of Puntish highlanders. And it was they who killed Zargheba.
      Conan follows the priests and finds the apes killing them. He goes after the cask of jewels they’d taken out. From him it passes to Muriela, then an ape grabs her and it, walking high above the rushing water… well you can guess where this is going. The monster dies and drops both, but Conan can catch only one. He chooses the girl.
      When they reach safety, he tells her not to cry about the jewels. He has a new plan:

      I’ll tell [Punt] that Keshan is intriguing with Thutmekri to enslave them — which is true — and that the gods have sent me to protect them — for about a houseful of gold. If I can manage to smuggle you into their temple to exchange places with their ivory goddess, we’ll skin them out of their jaw teeth before we get through with them!”

      spit take

      Does every black kingdom have an ivory goddess in Howard’s mind?
      Stereotypical stand-up comedian: “Black guys be like ‘we gotta worship a white woman!'”

      I like these stories where everyone is trying to double-cross each other, but this is a weaker example of the type within the Conan series. Muriela is another non-entity of a woman, making me much prefer the scheming of Nefertari in “Shadows in Zamboula”.
      Here the pieces don’t add up as well as they could: there’s the fraudulent supernatural, but then there are also corpses that never corrupt and such unexplained stuff, there aren’t enough schemers on-stage, and then it ends in a paroxysm of racist Trope.
      Your thoughts?

      • broblawsky says:

        The Dark Horse adaptation of this one has some really lovely P. Craig Russell art.

        That’s about the best I can say about it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Largely agree. They never did explain how Yeyala’s body doesn’t decay, although they did bother to explain how her clothes stay fresh: apparently the ape monsters have a stash of goddess gear and they swap them out like a dress-up doll. And are apparently still doing this 100 years after the last time any of the priests tried to show up.

        Also, we’ve seen many times now where Conan could have snagged some loot, but decides he doesn’t want any from such accursed places. So why bother going into the magic goddess temple to steal loot? There’s a really good chance it’s going to be magically screwed up and you’re going to wind up noping on out. Go rob a caravan or something, but stay away from haunted crypts if you’re superstitious, as Conan freely admits to being.

        Then again, does it count as superstition if your world really is populated by ghosts, wizards, monsters, dead gods and gibbering horrors from beyond the void? Like, if my friend in United States 2020 was scared of the dark because ghosts, I could tell him “please, there’s no such thing as ghosts, you’re just being superstitious.” But if Conan is wary about ancient tombs because horrors from beyond the grave…yeah that’s totally reasonable. He’s already stabbed at least two or three ancient undead sorcerers in those kinds of places, so that’s not a superstition, that’s healthy caution.

        Finally, there’s zero tension when it comes to choosing the girl or the treasure when this is the 15th time Conan ends a story with money, power and a girl and starts the next episode with nothing but a loincloth and a sword. It doesn’t matter which one he picks. He’s not going to have either next episode.

      • Deiseach says:

        Conan the Cimmerian, late of the Baracha Isles, of the Black Coast, and of many other climes where life ran wild, had come to the kingdom of Keshan following the lure of a fabled treasure that outshone the hoard of the Turanian kings.

        Okay, so we find out where he ended up after taking over Zaporavo’s ship and crew – headed back to the balmier climes with fat merchantmen in the shipping lanes to be plundered, probably did a bit too much plundering and attracted the attention of the law, and lost said ship and crew somewhere/somehow, so now he’s back on the thief/adventurer path again.

        I appreciated this exchange; ah now Conan, not every wizard, priest or mystic is a fake and a fraud. Okay, most of the ones you encounter, sure…

        “Thutmekri wanted the treasure where he—or the Zembabwans – could lay hand on it easily,” muttered Conan, disregarding the remark concerning himself. “I’ll carve his liver yet—Gorulga is a party to this swindle, of course?”

        “No. He believes in his gods, and is incorruptible. He knows nothing about this. He will obey the oracle. It was all Thutmekri’s plan. Knowing the Keshani would consult the oracle, he had Zargheba bring me with the embassy from Zembabwei, closely veiled and secluded.”

        “Well, I’m damned!” muttered Conan. “A priest who honestly believes in his oracle, and can not be bribed. Crom! I wonder if it was Zargheba who banged that gong. Did he know I was here? Could he have known about that rotten flagging? Where is he now, girl?”

        Conan has finally learned to pick up any loose loot when on a thieving expedition:

        “We can’t go yet,” he grunted. “I want to follow the priests and see where they get the jewels. There may be more loot hidden there. But you can go with me. Where’s that gem you wore in your hair?”

        “It must have fallen out on the dais,” she stammered, feeling for it. “I was so frightened—when the priests left I ran out to find you, and this big brute had stayed behind, and he grabbed me—”

        “Well, go get it while I dispose of this carcass,” he commanded. “Go on! That gem is worth a fortune itself.”

        Does every black kingdom have an ivory goddess in Howard’s mind?

        The way it’s described, I thought he meant they worship a goddess carved out of ivory:

        The people of Punt worship an ivory woman, and they wash gold out of the rivers in wicker baskets.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Okay, so we find out where he ended up after taking over Zaporavo’s ship and crew – headed back to the balmier climes with fat merchantmen in the shipping lanes to be plundered, probably did a bit too much plundering and attracted the attention of the law, and lost said ship and crew somewhere/somehow, so now he’s back on the thief/adventurer path again.

          Right. It’s an economical way of telling the reader what’s up.

          I appreciated this exchange; ah now Conan, not every wizard, priest or mystic is a fake and a fraud.

          Me too. The honest high priest is a great bit to have in an “everyone is planning a double cross” story.

          The way it’s described, I thought he meant they worship a goddess carved out of ivory:

          The people of Punt worship an ivory woman, and they wash gold out of the rivers in wicker baskets.

          Ah, that interpretation didn’t occur to me.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Now a special post I’ve been waiting to make: Tally of Lost Women!

      How often does Conan Get the Girl in the end, only for her to vanish forever? Let’s go down our story list.
      The Frost Giant’s Daughter: Atali wasn’t a girlfriend
      The God in the Bowl: no girl
      The Tower of the Elephant: no girl
      Rogues in the House: girl dumps him to the police, so he dumps her in a cesspool
      Queen of the Black Coast: after years together, Belit dies
      The Vale of Lost Women: Conan rejects a relationship with Livia
      Black Colossus: social rules kept Yasmela and Conan from staying together after they had sex next to a wizard’s corpse
      Shadows in the Moonlight: Olivia and Conan are a couple at the end
      * In the Lancer paperbacks, this story is followed by “The Road of the Eagles”, a non-Conan Howard story L. Sprague de Camp rewrote into a sequel… without mentioning Olivia.
      A Witch Shall Be Born: Conan rides off, Queen Taramis never having been his love interest
      Shadows in Zamboula: Nafertari acts like she’s going to pay Conan with sex, but refuses in favor of gold, not knowing he stole the Ophirean crown jewel she lost.
      The Slithering Shadow: Natala and Conan are a couple at the end
      The Devil in Iron: Octavia ends the story similar to Olivia and Natala
      * In the Lancer paperbacks, this story is followed by “The Flame Knife”, a non-Conan Howard story L. Sprague de Camp rewrote into a sequel… without mentioning Octavia.
      The People of the Black Circle: Conan accepts that he and Yasmina can’t stay together
      The Pool of the Black One: Sancha is the captain’s woman but doesn’t seem to like it
      Red Nails: Valeria and Conan are a couple at the end
      Jewels of Gwahlur: Muriela and Conan are a couple at the end
      * It’s not in the Lancer series, but L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter eventually (1978) wrote “The Ivory Goddess”, a sequel where Conan carries out the scheme mentioned at the end of “Gwahlur” and is forced by circumstances to break up with Muriela.
      Beyond the Black River: no girl
      The Black Stranger: there are significant female characters but Conan doesn’t hook up with one
      The Phoenix on the Sword: no girl
      The Scarlet Citadel: no girl
      The Hour of the Dragon: Conan sends a marriage proposal to Zenobia

    • Nornagest says:

      You can see where this is going: they drive off the dino with poison fruit jabbed in its mouth at the end of a weapon.

      Nice move. I’ll be taking note of